New Name For College Bookstores?

And, we’re back in school! Beyond the usual new clothes, new shoes, new supplies, back-to-school shopping tends to include books. Right?

Sort of.

When college kids set out to the school bookstore, lately, they aren’t seeing any books.

Sweatshirts, baseball caps and other garb, sure. But books? Not so much.

SUNY Stony Brook is one of many schools who have teamed up with Amazon as the official book retailer for the school. Now, students purchase texts — more than just books — through the school’s specially promoted Amazon page. Those books and texts — along with all sorts of other things you can get on Amazon — are delivered to the student on campus.

Those pickup locations? Amazon operates 12 of them on college campuses across the U.S. and said it plans to add at least five more by next year.

It’s happening across the country. Students are buying their learning materials online. As a result, bookstores are no longer stores full of books.

Amazon Student Programs is the primary course materials provider for Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Amazon will give approximately 2 percent of sales from the web retailer to those schools that it works with. Purdue’s treasurer’s office disclosed that it made $1 million since 2014 when it shook on the deal.

But Amazon isn’t the only player in the game.

Columbia University announced a partnership with Barnes & Noble this week. Interestingly, 98 percent of the stores Barnes & Noble College operates will continue to carry course materials in various formats, for now. Barnes & Nobles reps said they believe in physical stores, as shoppers still want that experience.

But some schools have done away with having a brick-and-mortar location. The bookstore at University of Massachusetts Amherst now only sells novels and campus merchandise. In April, the Queens College bookstore turned digital. So digital, in fact, that the building is permanently closed. The college uses and for connecting students with the necessary texts.

Even competitors of college bookstores are closing because of the digital text buying trend. In Collegetown, just off of Cornell University’s campus in Ithaca, NY, a main bookstore recently closed. The owner thanked his customers for their business, after being in business for more than 10 years.

No doubt, the reason for this is not just digital enterprise and convenience. Students have to shell out a ton of money on books and other texts, never mind tuition. Textbook prices have risen astronomically. Some data shows a rise more than three times the rate of inflation from Jan. 1977 to June 2015. That’s a 1,041 percent increase! That’s all while student spending on textbooks has only increased by 13 percent.

Students can shop around, too. Websites like Textsurf, BIGWORDS, BookFinder and SlugBooks each have the sole purpose of comparing textbooks.

And that’s also where the sharing economy comes in and fights back against the big boys, like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Student Monitor, a research firm, said the incidence of renting as an alternative to buying, as well as eTextbooks as an alternative to print, is at a record high.

So, what does that mean for your alma mater’s bookstore? Next time you go back for a reunion, it might be called GarbStore, ApparelShop or might have a sign that says, "See You Online."



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.

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