Though technology may be a support tool, it really all goes back to building the concept of trust equity across the whole campus, said Schlichenmayer.

Outside of faculty and students, college bookstores are also working more closely with often budget-strapped campus libraries.

“We’re seeing more bookstores work in close partnership with campus libraries to figure out which materials the bookstore can supply, and at what cost, versus what the library can rent or lend to students and in what formats; it’s really a more collaborative effort,” he explained.

Looking ahead

In the future, Schlichenmayer says he sees college bookstores looking more into wholesale support for textbook affordability, especially in terms of open educational resources (OER) and online formats, as well as becoming bigger supporters of the institution’s overall academic mission.

“College bookstores will become even more entrenched in campus culture, providing  critical services for students that will help in recruitment, retention and alumni engagement.”

For example, going back to Swarthmore, the college’s bookstore not only sells course materials and the usual fare, but includes a “technology e-store,” where, among other things, the campus community can purchase Microsoft Office starting at a reduced price of $79.98.

“The bottom line is that college bookstores are positioning themselves as a trusted campus partner that really understands student and faculty needs and weaves those needs-based services into the fabric of the institution,” he concluded. “They’re there to build and maintain mission and brand and will become even more integral to campus life in the next five-to-ten years.”


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