Leaders discuss how the college bookstore is becoming a tech-enabled, data-rich cornerstone of campus life.
They still sell t-shirts for proud parents and coffee mugs with catchy slogans, but college bookstores are also going through a renaissance of sorts, using technology-supported measures to become an integral cornerstone of campus life.
It’s what Ed Schlichenmayer, deputy CEO of the National Association of College Stores (NACS), and chief operating officer (COO) of indiCo (a NACS subsidiary), calls a system based on trust equity.
Despite booming online marketplaces for college textbooks–like Amazon, CourseSmart and BookFinder.com—“75 percent of course material transactions stay with the college bookstore,” said Schlichenmayer. “And that’s based on the trust equity they’ve built throughout the entire campus community.”
A reinvention’s beginning
According to Schlichenmayer, multiple drivers propelled college bookstores to reimagine how they work with students and faculty to procure needed course materials, including: pressure from online publishing, heavy use of used materials, the surge in rental platforms, and non-traditional wholesale options.
However, one of the major initial motivations to update practices began with the Higher Education Act’s (HEA) suggested guidelines to promote earlier adoption of course materials on campus.
“Five years ago, HEA added a guideline that urged colleges to adopt course materials at an earlier stage,” explained Jenny Febbo, vice president for strategic communications for NACS. “Faculty were asked to find and choose the materials required for their courses months before a student actually began the course. This gives college bookstores more time to find alternative options to new, printed books, as well as help drive down the overall cost for students by giving them the information they need to comparatively shop and consider their campus budgeting.”
And though the guideline was included in the HEA five years ago, “colleges had a two-year implementation window, so we’re really seeing the uptick in these practices within the last three years,” Schlichenmayer noted.