Bookstore faces online competition
Students are choosing to purchase their textbooks from Internet providers instead of on-campus bookstores, said Jeff Sherwood, CEO of a textbook comparison Web site.
Sherwood’s Bigwords.com has seen an increase of 25 to 50 percent in visitors and revenue each year since 2001, he said.
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“On-campus bookstores have an advantage because they are on campus. Their presence is unavoidable,” Sherwood said. “(However), we see that every year the online stores are taking a larger and larger percentage of the sales from the bookstore. They simply can’t compete.”
According to the Web site of the National Association of College Stores, a trade association, only 13 percent of textbooks were purchased online in 2004, while in 2007, the number rose to 23 percent.
Melanie Sparks, director of UNM Bookstores, said the bookstores’
relationship to the University community is unlike that of online retailers.
“We are a part of the University, and as such have the relationship with the faculty to ensure that the correct course materials are available for their classes — either in-store or (on) the Internet,” she said. “We feel confident that we offer services that Web sites cannot provide.”
Economics Assistant Professor Matias Fontenla said he agrees that the Bookstore is a reliable source for books but said the store should be ready to make adjustments to effectively compete with the rapidly expanding online textbook business.
“(The Bookstore) will have to lower prices,” he said. “They still can charge somewhat higher prices than the online competition because of the convenience factor, but the price difference will shrink.”
Sparks said the Bookstore has adapted to the online trend in the textbook market.
“We have a very robust and active Web site that offers the same guarantees as coming into the Bookstore,” she said.
Sparks said the Bookstore also has an advantage over online retailers: textbook buyback.
have a very aggressive used-book program, and that saves students 25
percent,” she said. “We also have a 5-percent-off for tax with their
Freshman Cameron Allen said being able to sell books back at the semester’s end outweighs online convenience.
would rather buy online,” he said. “But if you buy online you can’t
sell them back to the Bookstore, so in the long run it might actually
Fontenla said the competition between online and on-campus will ultimately benefit students.
“If students have alternative places to buy textbooks, it forces college bookstores to lower textbook prices if they want to compete,” he said.