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Campus Stores #1 in Market Share

Campus stores were the market share leaders in course materials purchases—in both dollars and units sold—during the 2015/2016 academic year. In the fall 2015 term, 65% of the units sold and 75% of dollars spent were at campus stores; in the spring 2016 semester, the campus store accounted for over half of units and three-quarters of dollars.

Spending Up Very Slightly

Spending on course materials remained fairly steady during the 2015/2016 academic year. Students spent an average of $602* on course materials during the year, compared with $563 last year, but still down considerably from the 2007/08 average of $701, and acquired an average of 5 course materials per term, down just slightly from the 5.5 average from a year ago.

* Total spending for the 2015-2016 academic year was weighted by campus type to more accurately reflect the proportion of students enrolled at two- and four-year U.S. institutions. The unweighted total spending average is $559.

Have Rentals Peaked?

Used books, rentals, borrowed materials, and free internet downloads all contributed to keeping student spending down. After several years of noticeable growth, the rentals market appears to have plateaued with about 40% of students renting at least one unit during both the fall 2014 and 2015 terms. Students still prefer to purchase their materials, with 86% purchasing at least one unit during the fall term.

Digital Format Up Slightly

Use of digital materials continued its slow and steady growth with 6 out of 10 students using at least one digital component during the fall 2015 term, either a digital textbook or an access code. Only 17% of students said they had not yet used a digital format during their college career.

Forty percent of students indicated a preference for print textbooks, down from 46% a year ago, while 26% prefer a print book with digital component. Only 7% cited a preference for a digital textbook or ebook.

Acquisition Sources

On average, students acquired their course materials from two sources during the fall and spring terms. The campus store remains the top source for course materials purchases, with 80% of students in the fall and 73% in the spring acquiring units from the on-campus retailer. The second most popular source is Amazon, with 40% and 37% of students acquiring from that online retailer during the fall and spring terms, respectively.

Purchases of course materials from Amazon have declined steadily over the past four semesters, from a high of 48% of students purchasing there down to 37% in the spring 2016 term.

On the other hand, rentals from Amazon showed an increase this year, up from 28% in fall of 2014 to 33% this year. The campus store is still the market leader in rentals, retaining 49% of the business during fall 2015 and a significant 53% in the spring.

During the spring 2016 term, rentals accounted for 24% of the units purchased and 17% of the dollars spent. In terms of format acquired, the vast majority of rentals are of used print textbooks; in the spring term, 79% of rentals were of used print, 16% new print, and 5% digital.

Convenience and lower cost remain the top reasons for acquiring digital. Slightly over a third of students shop for their preferred format first but may choose an option if it’s cheaper; another third look for the cheapest option regardless of format.

Students Value the Campus Store

If costs were equal, 74% of students said they’d prefer to purchase or rent their course materials from the campus store, either in- store or online. Preference for the campus store has increased 8% since last year. By comparison, only 13% of students indicated a preference for Amazon, down from 19% during fall 2014. The ease and convenience of online shopping, past positive experiences, and ease in finding what they need top the list of benefits for online resources like Chegg and Amazon.

Top Benefits of Shopping the Campus Store
  • Convenience
  • Saves time
  • Ability to acquire all materials at once
  • Confidence in receiving the right materials

Price transparency through price-comparison tools is becoming an important element of campus store shopping, and a definitive indicator that campus stores are dedicated to providing the most affordable formats and resources for students.

During the fall 2015 term, 44% of students whose store offered price comparison utilized it when shopping, and 80% found it to be an easy tool to use. The frequency of students utilizing this tool jumped by 5% in the spring term. Six out of ten students using the tool said it saved them money, and 64% also noted that it saved them time.

Of students without access to a price comparison tool, 73% indicated they would be very likely to use it if it became available at their campus store.

DOWNLOAD The Key Findings Report: Student Watch™ 2015-16 Academic Year