By Eric Geller
Late last semester, Bookstore Manager Jim Huang sent an email advising students of changes to the Bookstore’s textbook system that would begin after winter break. With the start of classes a few weeks ago, these new policies, which include online K-Card use, electronic textbooks and rental options, are now in effect.
The Bookstore has partnered with Cengage to provide e-book versions of popular textbooks that are cheaper than their print counterparts. In addition to print versions available for purchase or rental, these textbooks will now be available to download in full or on a per chapter basis. “We welcome this opportunity to offer you more options and save you money,” Huang wrote in his email. “There are many different systems for the delivery of electronic texts, and your Bookstore is looking for all the input we can get as we evaluate them all.”
Huang also sent out an email with a list of nine titles eligible for their guaranteed buyback program. “We’veworked with faculty to identify a few titles that we’re selling for Spring 2011 that we already know will be used on campus again in Fall 2011,” he wrote. The Bookstore will buy these texts from students at the end of the Spring semester for 50 percent of the title’s cost. “If your verdict is favorable,” Huang wrote to students, “we’ll look to expand this to more titles next semester.”
Students who don’t need to buy their textbooks can use the Bookstore’s rental site at kenyon.rentsbooks.com. Huang reported that many students rented textbooks in the Fall using this option, which provides free shipping on orders of over $100.
The Bookstore has also added the option for students to buy and rent school materials using their K-Cards.
How have these policies affected students’ decisions so far? “The [rental] numbers aren’t overwhelming,” Huang said. “Rental is at 128 transactions for 211 books, fall and spring semesters combined.” He also mentioned that textbook sales were not currently as high as he’d like them to be. “The bottom line is that new text sales continue to fall here,” he said. “Used text sales are up, but those additional used dollars fall far short of covering what we’re losing on the new side.”
Besides these recently-introduced policies, Huang has several ideas to revitalize the Bookstore. Currently, he and his staff use “an internal price comparison tool that allows us to look at our prices in relation to other campus stores and to online competitors. We have made adjustments based on this data, and will continue to work with these numbers.” He also said the Bookstore was currently focused on “better technology for rentals, affiliate arrangements with more text publishers for more digital options, working with our faculty to apply the guaranteed buyback and multiple semester buyback programs to a wider range of titles [and] looking at some unconventional sources for used texts.”
Huang added that partnerships with e-book providers for non-textbook purchases might be on the horizon. “We’ve been working on this and hope to be able to announce something soon,” he said. “Right now, we understand the importance of getting this done. It’s just a matter of finding enough time and resources to make it happen.”
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