College bookstores have never had it worse. Amazon, eCampus, and MBS Direct are coming at them with virtual bookstore offerings while at the same time students are shifting their purchases online.
So what's a college bookstore to do?
Some, like Jayhawk Bookstore in Lawrence Kansas, are shutting down, but others are adapting to the new reality. They're cutting their costs, offering deliveries, matching prices, and offering new services.
The campus bookstore at the University of Northeastern Oklahoma, for example, is now price-matching with its online competitors. This bookstore is run by B&N Education, which adopting a price-matching policy last year, but it's not clear what else it is doing to become more competitive.
Independent college bookstores, on the other hand, are doing a lot more.
The UNM bookstore in New Mexico, for example, has found new suppliers to replace the usual distributors which serve college bookstores, and it has reportedly cut the average price of a textbook from $88 to $69 per book.
“Before there were standard margins in the college bookstore industry,” bookstore director Carrie Mitchell said. “We have thrown those out and now look at what is a more competitive price, whenever we are able. We also source from more market place vendors than before.”
That bookstore also offers students a price comparison too so they can check prices online, and this fall the bookstore is introducing a new tool for faculty to use when selecting course materials. It will recommend cheaper alternatives, and will also have a database of open education resource material.
“When they are selecting a course material for their class, it will tell them if there are more affordable course materials they could select. Each course material will be given an affordability score,” Mitchell said. “This will help us measure our progress, as a university, on making course materials more affordable.”
The UNO bookstore in Omaha, on the other hand, is focusing on services as its solution for staying competitive. It now offers deliveries to the community around the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and a few weeks back it also installed a kiosk where students and faculty can get their mobile device repaired.
Dubbed iFixit Station, the kiosk is run by iFixOmaha and offers basic repairs like battery and screen replacement, button repair, water damage recovery, charging port repair, camera replacement, board-level micro solder restoration and general diagnostics.
“With the introduction of the iFix Omaha to the UNO campus we now offer a resource to fix phones screens for the many phones that get dropped by college students” sophomore Matthew Dooley said. “It’s a great third party screen replacement option.”
And given that college students are often strapped for funds, this is also a great way to save them from having to either replace their mobile device or ship it so it can be repaired.