There was a time when the academic year was properly punctuated by a Fall back-to-school season, signifying the beginning of a two-semester school year. But education has changed, and so too have the needs of the students seeking learning materials. Increasingly, campuses are adding mini sessions or second half-semester classes, summer programs and Learning Modules, which have all resulted in a year-round demand for textbooks. Meeting that challenge, and keeping up with the constant demand for new learning and study materials is a role the campus bookstore has learned to master.
Providing the widest selection of course materials at the best prices has been a long-standing objective for Barnes & Noble College and, as the world’s largest bookseller, the company provides access to the largest selection of affordable course materials, textbooks and trade books available. “We’re able to partner with over 7,000 publishers,” explains Patrick Haze, Vice President, Course Materials for Barnes & Noble College, “and that’s part of the key that has helped us deliver an overall $1.5 billion in savings to our students since 2012,” he says.
Offering affordable course materials to students is something college administrators are also keenly aware of. “Barnes & Noble College has worked to significantly lower the costs of books and materials through programs such as textbook rentals and e-textbooks,” says Dr. Craig Foltin, executive vice president of Administration and Finance, Cuyahoga Community College. “The Barnes & Noble experience and philosophy has been an integral part of Tri-C as today’s collegiate bookstore.”
But before that happens, students need to be able to successfully find the right book. Haze points out that around half of the campuses Barnes & Noble College partners with use registration integration, where students can follow a link directly to the bookstore website at the time they register for class. “The site is pre-filled with their course information and the textbook titles that have been adopted for each course by their professors,” Haze explains, “and from there, they can examine all the available options — whether the book is new, used, rented new or used, or digital.”
But even when the student doesn’t use registration integration, the bookstore website automatically displays available formats and pricing options of their course books from an easy selection of drop-down menus. Because the information comes directly from faculty members, students can accurately identify and obtain the correct versions and editions used for their specific classes. Haze maintains that, increasingly, the most popular way to acquire books is through renting. “In the last four or five years, the opportunity to rent has had a significant effect on student savings, and now almost 80 percent of the books we carry are available as rentals,” he says.
And while digital learning has grabbed recent headlines, its use on campus is growing more slowly. “I think there’s still a big learning curve to digital, and currently there are not as many books available in digital formats as there are for rent,” Haze points out, “but as the technology evolves and our list of digital titles continues to grow, we’ll begin to see more students choosing digital. We offer all formats so students can choose the option that works best for them.”
Those students starting new classes this year will have already found their course books, ordered, packed up and waiting for them at their campus bookstore, but it doesn’t stop the resolve of the campus bookstore to continue to look for new ways to help deliver textbook convenience and savings. “Innovation is more than a buzzword at the College, and Barnes & Noble College is a significant partner in helping us modernize processes that leverage the newest technologies and to help ensure that our students will reach their full potential,” Tri-C’s Dr. Foltin says.
Whether through programs like FacultyEnlight, that make for easier textbook adoptions by faculty members, or through offerings like the rental buyout program, where students can purchase the books they’ve been renting, it makes the campus bookstore an extremely convenient and competitive source for textbooks.
There’s also another advantage. “It’s always a big customer service benefit to have a physical presence on campus,” Haze says. “If a student has a question, or changes a class, they can just come to the store and we can help them with whatever it is they need,” he says. “We recognize that books are expensive, and we’ll do anything we can to help students find the right book, in the best possible format and pricing option to meet their needs.”