Jeff Young offers an insightful piece on the challenges facing campus bookstores. I remember fondly my days picking up books, spirals, etc at Ulrichs, Michigan Book and Supply, and even Shaman Drum (for some anthropology and sociology courses).
Young’s piece highlights many of the challenges and opportunities facing the traditional booksellers on campuses. Its nice to see that some store managers are clear eyed (I guess years of decreasing textbook sales will do that) and that there are opportunities for innovation and improvement for the campus retail sector. Entrepreneurial universities will evolve the idea of the campus retailer.
Read the full piece on campus bookstores in the digital age from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Here is a snippet:
bookstores at many colleges are preparing for a bookless future with new services they hope will keep students coming: performance spaces for in-store concerts, multimedia stations for printing digital photos, and even dry cleaning. Most store managers I talked with hoped to drop the word “book” from the sign out front.”I say I’m a buggy-whip salesman,” quipped Liz Hale, manager of bookstore services at Bellingham Technical College, in Washington, where she has been advocating changes in the campus store. “I personally believe that the textbook in its current incarnation is as obsolete as buggy whips that people used to steer when we had horses and carriages.”
and later in the piece;
For one futuristic vision of the college bookstore, visit the University of Kansas. Its bookstore sports a bright, modern look and can print its own books. It was the first to join a pilot project with Hewlett-Packard to test print-on-demand machines in college stores. That lets KU Bookstores dodge the riskiest part of its business—ordering loads of printed textbooks in advance and hoping that students buy their required materials on campus. The store has put its new printing facilities on display, letting curious students see the process.
“It’s kind of like watching a Krispy Kreme doughnut being made. It’s fascinating,” says Estella McCollum, director of KU Bookstores. The store’s machine can print a book in about 10 minutes, and students often remark that the resulting tomes are still warm when they buy them.
The on-demand approach can mean noticeable savings for students. Ms. McCollum says she recently reduced the price of one psychology textbook by about $37 per copy with the new equipment, and she can print collections of articles for classes, often called course packs, as well. Plenty of college stores sell course packs, she says, but most have to contract out the actual printing. Her store has cut out the middleman.