Course materials play a pivotal role in student success. Whether or not students have their materials by the start of class can have a significant impact on their ability to keep up with the course. It also affects how teachers are able to do their job. How have the recent changes in the educational landscape influenced course materials and students’ expectations?
Recently, we sat down with Regional Sales Manager Max Garrett to discuss the evolution of the course material industry and the importance of providing students with reliable, affordable options.
What is the biggest change you have seen in the course material industry?
Just how rapidly course content distribution is evolving. 15 years ago, the only thing textbook managers had to consider was how many used copies they could put on the shelves and then backfill with new. Rush came, and books sold. Now there are so many options — digital, rental, OER, marketplace, different publisher distribution models, etc. — on top of new and used print.
How has the change impacted schools and students?
Students are looking to save money and get their content wherever they can achieve that cost-saving goal — many times, to their own harm. When they order from unreliable sources and they get materials after classes begin, students can fall behind.
Schools work hard to supply affordable course materials with the greatest student convenience. They are exploring different options — such as digital, used, rental, inclusive access, OER and alternative content — to best serve their students while still preserving faculty academic freedom. Offering 24/7 customer support, a variety of low-cost course material options and reliable service makes for happier student customers.
What factors are most important for a school when assessing their course material distribution?
Do you have the staffing and time? What I mean is, there are so many cost-saving options that it is hard to keep up if you are understaffed. If you are well-staffed and have the time and resources, keeping course content in the store may make sense. If you are not well staffed with experienced text people, you may be missing the opportunity to offer students more convenience and cost-saving options while reducing the school’s overhead expenses.
If students can find better, more reliable savings on course materials somewhere else, they are going to go there. Then not only does the store lose course content sales, but it now has declining sales in spirit, supply and convenience items — which typically have better margins than course content.
What leads schools to switch to an online bookstore?
Many things. Do you have the resources to effectively manage course content with all the options available? Is your traditional retail space needed for other campus initiatives? There are several paths a school can take to come into the online bookstore discussion.
An online bookstore can free up space, provide students with greater convenience, a larger selection of course materials and offer around-the-clock service. Another motivating factor is if your textbook sales are dropping at an alarming rate, online bookstores are a great solution. Administrators who are looking for a stable revenue stream or more ways to increase student savings often adopt a virtual solution.
What hybrid solutions are available through MBS?
It is interesting that administrators and store personnel are looking at hybrid solutions. Hybrid solutions can provide greater flexibility for stores in a changing market. If taking textbooks online and keeping a campus store is the best fit for your school, MBS can provide customized options. We can help if you want the store to be the distribution point, if you want delivery to be direct to student or a combination. We can also customize solutions for textbook rental returns and buybacks. In addition, MBS has a state-of-the-art POS solution to help with running your campus store. We offer a complete array of solutions to best serve all of our clients.
What are some advantages of selecting a hybrid solution?
If your sell-through is dropping semester after semester, and that seems to be the trend, then moving course content off the shelves may save you and your students money. Let’s face it, textbook inventory is a huge investment of resources. If that investment sits on the shelf and eventually gets returned or written off, that is a major cost burden for the institution. An online bookstore can help reduce those overhead expenses, as well as enable your school to provide students more of the cost-saving options they want. Large online bookstore providers have scale and can offer your students more options — rental, digital, used print, marketplace print, dynamically priced new print, OER, etc. — as well as other ways for your school to further increase student savings.