There are a lot of factors that go into making an important decision for your school, and deciding to go online is no different. Factors like cost, implementation and student preference can make the decision to go with an online bookstore or stick with a physical store feel daunting.
Some schools have found it’s actually advantageous to do both. Just ask the College of Idaho. When the school partnered with MBS Direct to open an Online Bookstore in 2013, they recognized students were part of the "now generation" when it came to apparel and other gear, they kept their store space open with MBS Systems, adapting to meet those non-textbook needs. They were featured in a University Business article on schools that utilize both an online bookstore and an on-campus physical store. We've included the relevant excerpts, but you can read the full story and see other examples here.
Campus bookstores, meanwhile, have been reconfigured for other merchandise or have even closed. The trend is especially robust among smaller colleges, but is also catching on at large institutions.
“The purchase options for students have increased beyond the traditional new and used purchase as rentals, digital and custom course packs are growing in popularity,” says Laura Massie, spokesperson for the National Association of College Stores. ”These formats provide price-point options for students that can allow them to stretch their dollars a little further.”
And for the institution, the move can be a good business decision. “Schools might look at this as an option to help relieve them of the inventory risk associated with course materials,” says Massie.
Some institutions have found ways to overcome these losses. For instance, The College of Idaho moved textbooks sales online in 2013, but MBS Direct, its vendor, offers a mobile (POS) that can be used inside the remaining store (or anywhere else). Although the campus store no longer stocks course materials, selling spiritwear and other items off-site—such as at athletic events—has boosted the bottom line. Sales of these other items are expected to double for the year.
Changing a campus store’s focus also can impact various campus departments, such as the post office. At Bridgewater, post office staffers were “very apprehensive” about increased shipping volume related to the online book purchases, Keeler says. But while volume did increase, it was a manageable difference, she says, adding that “many students had been shopping online for textbooks for the past several years.”
Want to get more in-depth information about the College of Idaho and their mixed program? It's all in our Case Study: The College of Idaho. You can also read more about the College of Idaho and Cox College's ventures both online and in-store here.