The Direct Network

State of the Online Bookstore

Posted by Dean Asher on Aug 20, 2015 5:00:00 AM

For your school and your students, each new term brings new challenges, new opportunities and new things to be excited about. That’s true on our side of the business, as well. Which is why Bill Dampier, President & COO of MBS Direct, is kicking off the new term by sharing some of the trends he’s seen and what he expects will come.

How has the past year been for institutions, and what do they have to look forward to in the upcoming term?

I’d say this year’s been a somewhat challenging one, mainly in that online competition is fiercer than ever before. Students are looking for the best value for their money, wherever they can get that. Rental seems to be hitting a saturation point with title availability within the market, and marketplace continues to be a viable option for students.  That has continued to be the theme of the shopping season.

We are also seeing a steady movement toward integrated learning solutions that most large publishers are offering today.  More than just an ebook, they provide instructors with feedback as to student performance, as well as an engaging student learning experience.  Usage of these products is beginning to trend upward quickly.


With that in mind, what can schools expect from us?

MBS Direct is working hard to make sure those students have the options for their dollars.

We’ve done some significant tests on pricing strategies that we plan to phase in over the next year — as well as add more used books and products from non-traditional sources. We also plan to expand rental in 2016 with more titles available and different pricing points. Of course, we continue to expand our digital catalogue availability; which today not only features traditional eBooks, but access to publishers’ learning solutions delivered by access code. All of these products are offered today through our integrated online bookstore.

The common theme in what we’re doing is making sure MBS Direct can distribute any content necessary for success of your student and at the best possible value. Students need their course materials in order to be successful in class, but they deserve to have them as affordable as possible.


The changing landscape of course materials isn’t limited to price. What can students, staff and faculty expect as course materials continue to evolve?

We’re already offering not just print, but we’re continuing to further explore other options from both publishers and non-traditional sources that have engaging content but different price points for students. The Online Bookstore is good at helping connect students with their course materials, but helping faculty find the right tools and technology is a challenge we’re engaging.

From surveys, we know that about 50 percent of faculty are already using non-publisher content like Open Educational Resources, or OER. This is not foreign to faculty, but few have engaged it to the point where they’re replacing traditional textbooks. This likely won’t change in the near future, but we have the tools not to replace but bring awareness to what they have at their disposal.

Faculty develop their courses around key learning objectives; the key is matching the right content with those objectives. We’re continuing to develop and improve our tools to help them be aware of all of their options — both traditional and nontraditional — to achieve those goals. There’s not just publisher content to consider, there are things to gain in open educational resources and other sources.


Closing Remarks

While cost is a major headline when it comes to textbooks and course materials, the ability to affect that cost is in the hands of students and faculty.  Current solutions, such as digital, rental and marketplace, have an impact on what the student spends today; new products, based around digital platforms, are being provided to faculty and instructors and will provide additional options to help control cost for the student.  Ultimately, we are all in the same business: to see our mutual customer, the student, succeed in their academic endeavors.    


About Dean Asher

Dean Asher is a former copywriter with MBS. Though he no longer writes for us, he is still proud of having helped this blog continue to evolve as an industry-leading resource of news and original content.

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