As a private four-year liberal arts school in North Dakota, the University of Jamestown has long sought to provide students with a quality education. The college's approximately 1,000 full and part-time undergrad students attend classes in degrees ranging from education and accounting to engineering and biochemistry. Many go on to acquire their Education, Leadership, Clinical Counseling master's and Physical Therapy doctorates at the school's nearby Fargo campus. But the Jimmie Connection, University of Jamestown's retail store, knows what it's like to face stiff online competition.
The self-operated bookstore found it was getting more and more difficult to compete in the textbook market with students who had grown accustomed to shopping for deals online, and decided a change was necessary.
"We felt, after much discussion, that the online store was the way to go," said Tanya Ostlie, bookstore manager. "Students today are so comfortable with doing everything online, and they were doing so much online buying even when we had books in our store on campus, so we felt it was the best fit for us."
As an MBS Wholesale and Systems partner, the University of Jamestown began researching MBS Direct's Online Bookstore and expansive inventory of used, rental and digital course content.
"One of the things that attracted us to the online model was that we no longer had to carry the inventory ourselves," she said. "With many publishers moving toward custom titles these days, it was becoming more difficult to purchase and avoid being stuck with stock in the end, as returns on those titles are often limited."
Ultimately, the University of Jamestown decided to partner with MBS Direct as its official course material fulfillment provider. The summer and fall 2016 terms saw students utilizing the web as their official source of course content. Now all of the materials they needed for their classes were available online within their school's official Online Bookstore.
"I've have had several students say they really like having the books online," Ostlie said. "I sent out a lot of information to our students last spring and over the summer months, and I think students are finding the ordering process pretty easy. We are a small campus and were not able to offer all of the different buying options that MBS can offer our students, so in the long run, I feel this may actually be cheaper for the students."
While students are able to purchase their course materials online and have increased access to cost-saving options, this hasn't spelled the end for the Jimmie Connection. The University of Jamestown will continue to have an official on-campus retail store supported by its campus and alumni, specializing in University apparel, art supplies, educationally-priced software and other goods and merchandise.
In addition to the products it provides the University of Jamestown and the surrounding community, the Jimmie Connection also strives to provide some of the school's students with valuable work experience — all things Ostlie said were important to retain even with an Online Bookstore in place.
"We have the campus mail room attached to our store that I also manage, so between the campus store and the mail room, we employ anywhere from 15-20 students per semester through our campus work study program," she said. "It's nice to be able to employ that many students in one area and its great working with them. They bring life and fresh ideas to our store and I value their opinions. I appreciate having them."