Long lines and lengthy wait times appear to be the trend at local “brick and mortar” bookshops across campus. But on-line booksellers such as ecampus.com, efollet.com and a vast array of others swarm the market with an insatiable thirst for college bank accounts. Although these online book merchants have made a presence in the minds of college students and an imprint on the textbook industry, students and local bookstores don”t seem to feel a sharp impact.
Close-to-home booksellers see a marginal slump in textbook sales and shrug off online companies by providing substantiated customer service, simple worry-free return policies and reasonably competitive prices.
“We haven”t really seen them (online textbook merchants) affect our sales. People aren”t satisfied with paying shipping costs and the time involved with searching and waiting for books,” said Adam Howell, store manager at Michigan Book and Supply. “We adhere to a general standard, we watch our prices and maintain competitiveness.”
According to Howell, the only effects Michigan Book and Supply has seen as a result of online book offerings is a longer waiting period before purchasing.
“Students wait longer to purchase their books, and buy them closer to the beginning of the semester,” Howell said. “Online sales just offer a negative experience for students.”
Students take the time to seek other prices online but soon find their time is worth more than the three or four dollars saved.
Though on-campus booksellers are able to provide instant book gratification, online dealers feel compelled to leverage all facets of the mail order business to keep up.
“Our books ship out in 24 hours and customers receive them no later than five business days via UPS,” said Chief Operation Manager Mark Uhl. “The number one advantage is not having to go on campus, stand in line, and wade through the crowds each semester.”
Uhl added, “Shipping overnight is possible, and if you order it before 11 a.m. EST you will get it the next day.”
Book buyback has also remained a factor in the online versus traditional store decision. Michigan Book and Supply currently offers a buyback program that will purchase a textbook in demand regardless of its origin. “Students may sell their books back regardless of where it was purchased,” Howell said.
VarsityBooks.com is among a select few of “e-tailers” that will not purchase used books online. Of those that do, such as ecampus.com, may not cover the costs of shipping to their warehouses.
A third option for students is to trade or purchase books from one another. An increasingly popular approach to obtaining textbooks is through mediated student book exchange programs.
The Student Book Exchange is a non-profit student-run book drive aimed at aiding students in their book seeking endeavors. Students bring in their books for sale and set their own asking price for the first two days, and the remaining two days of the exchange are reserved for purchasing. If a student”s book is sold, than student receives 85 percent of the revenue and the remaining amount goes to the SBE to cover the costs of overhead. The SBE”s selling and buying dates for the fall term may be found at http://www.umich.edu/sbe.