A Textbook Conundrum
SNC bookstore searches for a simple solution when providing students with textbooks
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With the rise in technology and the demand for lower textbook prices over the years, businesses like Amazon.com, Chegg and Barnes & Noble have drawn more student buyers than Follett, SNC’s online bookstore.
Annamarie Jones, who operates SNC’s Campus Store, said, “When I took over the campus store in 2013, one of the biggest issues we had was related to textbooks. I was brought in and asked to look at what was costing the Campus Store so much money. The answer was textbooks.”
The school was spending about $100,000 on the bookstore, so Jones reevaluated the store’s inventory, especially textbooks. Federal law dictates that students must have some way to purchase their textbooks through the college.
“We have to provide students with an opportunity to buy books. If they don’t have an Amazon account or if they can’t buy from somewhere else, they have to be able to buy from a bookstore format,” Jones said. “So, for students who don’t have computers, we have to provide them with an opportunity to buy books.
“Basically we were looking for a service that was low cost, or no cost, something that would work for our students, something that provided an online bookstore where they could still purchase books.
“We checked out a couple different options,” Jones said. “We’re an incredibly small school, which makes it incredibly difficult. I had approached Barnes & Noble and a couple different large distributors. Follett was the company we chose because it doesn’t cost us anything.”
Although Jones said that Follett’s adoptions process is the easiest in the industry, she realizes many SNC students do not use Follett to buy textbooks. Jones has personally assisted various students over the past four years, helping them through the process of buying from Follett.
“If you’re going to offer convenience, you have to be competitive,” said Jones.
The textbook publishing industry is known for high prices. The online platform of Follett, known as eFollett, keeps prices slightly lower than comparable websites by having a large distribution center and working simultaneously with multiple colleges. The eFollett platform offers other products such as care packages, phone chargers, and dorm décor.
Still, some students report having difficulties buying from Follett. Sophomore Erin Wilson said that returning books at semester’s end can be problematic.
“After each semester, I mail my books back to the distribution center with the original printed receipt from Follett and usually there is no problem,” Wilson said. “This past semester, I did the same thing and the books were mailed back to me. Follett deleted my account and has been sending me emails saying I owe them money.”
Wilson has been selling her used books to other SNC students in order to get back some of her money, “so it isn’t a complete loss,” she said.
Some students completely boycott the idea of using the Follett bookstore. Second-semester freshman Ikela Lewis chose other book buying options.
“I only need two textbooks this year. Using Follett, one would have cost me $97 and the other cost me $93, not counting shipping. Using another online store, I picked up both books for $65 including shipping. So, I saved about $120 by shopping online instead of using the school store. To a struggling college student, that’s a big deal,” Lewis said.
June Saraceno, English department program chair, sees additional problems with the online bookstore. “My frustration with required texts is that without a bookstore on campus, students often don’t have their texts during the first week of class. This causes a lag time that can be really frustrating,” she said.
If funding wasn’t an issue, Saraceno would like to see a brick and mortar bookstore brought to SNC. “But if that’s not possible, then some other mechanism whereby students have their books on day one,” she said.
Jones stressed the importance of students acquiring their textbooks promptly regardless of where they buy them. “The number one determining factor to a student’s success is whether or not they have textbooks within the first week of classes,” she said.