Implementing an online bookstore to manage all of the course material logistics doesn’t mean it is necessary to get rid of the on-campus store. Campus stores can be a central location where students frequently gather to shop for spirit wear, grab coffee and snacks, and meet up with peers. Mitchell Technical Institute has partnered with us to manage their course materials while they focus on selling tools, spirit wear and other goods to support their programs, scholarships, and more.
It’s safe to say that changes in student purchasing behavior, in course material options, and in technology have disrupted many college bookstores, a once-stable revenue source for textbook sales. Bookstore earnings are down by as much as 35% at colleges and universities and P&L statements show an increasingly common theme: administrators need to find a solution to the issue of declining revenues.
A number of possible options can help. One solution that allows universities to regain the income lost to online competitors like Amazon while also creating new opportunities for profitability and cost savings is the online bookstore model. By transitioning the college bookstore to a centralized online model for adoptions, purchasing, and access, schools can free up valuable physical space, provide a single platform for physical and digital course materials, and get deeper insights into bookstore and course material utilization. With an online bookstore partner, many operational tasks—from inventory ordering to logistics to customer support and even buyback programs—can be delegated, enabling university staff to focus on higher-level strategic goals.
At many college bookstores, revenues from textbooks and course materials continues to shrink every year – something that's already well known but proven to be difficult to fix. With competition from online giants like Amazon and a digital transformation in course materials, university administrators need new strategies to improve sales while continuing to meet student needs.
The brand new 2019 College Business Officers Survey we just completed reveals how higher ed institutions plan to meet these challenges with innovative, low-cost, digital options.
At the end of each school term, students experience plenty of stress while they study for exams, secure internships, move out of student housing, and await final grades. However, for many students, anxiety also builds over how much money they will receive for their textbooks during buybacks.
While exams and final grades are part of college life, textbook buybacks have often led to frustration and disappointment as students are surprised by the buyback value of their textbooks, oftentimes receiving pennies on the dollar of the original prices.
After speaking extensively with students and school administrators alike about buyback programs, we recognized that, not only are they a common frustration for students and universities, there’s an important factor that has gone largely overlooked:
Student estimates of future buyback prices influence when and how they obtain their course materials.
As the initial decision around textbooks occurs long before the buyback process ever begins, students cannot accurately estimate future buyback prices. This lack of transparency has left students in the dark over whether to buy used, new, or rent their materials. Some students, concerned over a potentially low or altogether absent buyback value, may even wait until later in the semester to purchase, impacting their performance and learning.
Institutions are Gaining a Winning Edge by Transitioning to a
Virtual Course Materials Platform
Between 2006 and 2016, the cost of college textbooks increased by 73%, which was over four times the rate of inflation. (1) Today, with individual textbook costs climbing to hundreds of dollars each, it should be no surprise that many students are looking outside of the school-sanctioned bookstore to find affordable sources when buying their course materials or, worse, not buying them at all. If college and university leaders hope to meet the growing needs of their student populations and scale for an increasingly digital future, they’ll need to address these trends.