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Insights from the Field: Textbook Affordability

Independent stores are uniquely positioned to have the versatility and resourcefulness to develop and implement initiatives that can have significant impact on many aspects of students’ academic success. 

Many successful Store Directors are making concerted efforts to enhance acquisition and affordability of course materials for students, and actively participate in programs that lower costs and improve access. Here are a few of the best-practice responses we received to our query.

As an independent or institutionally-run college store, how have you been able to impact student access to course materials, enhance course materials affordability, or streamline the purchase process for students?

Catherine Murphy
Belmont University Campus Store

We have many rental books available. We order from places like Amazon to save money and pass that savings on to students in the form of special price stickers on the books. Currently we are looking at moving to completely digital (as much as possible anyway) to save students more through the lower cost of digital books, as well as promising full enrollment sales to the publisher to secure even more discounts. We offer free dorm delivery and in store pick-up to provide added convenience. Students are also given a line of credit to purchase textbooks, so whether they have financial aid or loans or not, they can purchase their textbooks from us and pay later.

Robin Dziczek
Assumption College Bookstore

Several years ago we lowered our margins on books at a net price of $150 or higher. Currently we follow a 25% for net under $100, 20% for net $100-$149 and 15% for net $150 or higher. We have partnered with several used vendors to offer as many rental opportunities as possible on new and used textbooks, and we offer e-texts through several vendors. Our website allows students to order either rentals or purchase course materials and e-texts at any time for pick up or delivery. We are open 7 days a week when school in session for easy access to course materials. We also keep books on the shelves past mid-term so students can purchase as needed instead of all at once.

Marcy Gannon
CSM College Store

We do a number of things to keep course materials affordable, including partnering with faculty and educating faculty on current textbook laws (HEOA and Maryland). We research alternate formats, such as binder ready, B&W printing, and custom. We offer a variety of formats, including (new, used, digital, new/used rentals. Financial aid is integrated to store POS system to simplify those transactions, and we also offer online textbook sales with home delivery or free in-store pickup.

Joanne Leibold
Waubonsee Community College Bookstore

We source textbooks using the tools available through Verba, Sidewalk Marketplace, Amazon, and BookByte Direct, then dynamically price all books that we can to save the students money. We offer in-house textbook rentals utilizing the wholesale rental guarantees to rent as many titles as possible, keeping the prices low as possible. We also offer an ebook format if available and approved by the instructor.

Cathy Ladouceur
University of Windsor

We enhance affordability through a "5 ways to save" promotion, which advertises that we buy used textbooks, sell used textbooks, rent textbooks, offer free shipping and in-store pick up on qualified web orders, and offer price matching with amazon.ca and chaptersindigo.ca. We also provide digital course materials through Campus eBookstore.

Polly Grapes
SFCC Campus Store

We have a 2 year book adoption policy and about 90% of all titles are on this cycle. Verba software has helped immensely and we utilize both the Compete and the Compare so we're transparent to students and faculty, and make better sourcing and buyback decisions ourselves. We've worked with publishers on several access code/e-book projects to lower costs.