Where Are College Bookstores Headed? Get the 2019 Report

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.

Can colleges recover lost bookstore revenue?

The survey results underscore what college officials already know: the time to transform and broaden bookstore service offerings is now.

  • Revenue is down. 67% of college business officers surveyed say annual bookstore revenue has declined over the past three years.
  • Students demand lower prices. Between 25% to 74%of students already circumvent the bookstore to buy online.
  • Shelf space for textbooks is decreasing. 43% say they will cut the amount of space allocated for textbooks at their bookstore over the next five years.

Students are turning to internet retailers who can afford to charge less or buying second-hand textbooks through online marketplaces. Meanwhile, faculty are increasingly relying on eBooks, open educational resources (OER), and other digital course materials.

As one survey respondent put it, “Store rents are high, reading methods are electronic, and physical bookstores [have] become ‘free exhibition halls’ for online bookstores.”


So how can campus bookstores rise to meet these challenges?

Schools must evolve their course materials strategy

Forward-looking colleges are thinking holistically to provide access to high-quality textbooks and materials at student-friendly prices.

In our report, we illustrate several key ways business officers have stated their schools must focus on to evolve and thrive:

  • Shift to digital materials. 34% plan to shift to digital materials and 23% are embracing OER.
  • Offer a third-party marketplace. Only 30% currently offer a platform to sell second-hand books or buy from cheaper sources.
  • Embrace a hybrid business model. The majority believe a combination of online and offline purchasing will best meet student demands.

To see all of the stats, you can download the free report:  2019 College Business Officers Survey on Books and Course Materials.

If you're interested in learning how we can help your university and students improve bookstore revenues while lowering textbook costs, let us know.

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