By Melissa Fraser, Staff Writer
The USM bookstore will undergo a major change in the upcoming spring semester, removing many of the long metal shelves stocked with course textbooks that line that back of the store as USM shifts toward online-only purchasing.
A contract has been made with a virtual bookstore, eCampus, in an effort to modernize the way that students buy and sell their books. This change will provide students with better pricing, convenient online buybacks and a longer return policy, according to a presentation given to the Academic Deans by Jeanne Paquette, the Vice President of Corporate Engagement and Auxiliary Services, and Catherine Johnson, General Manager of the USM bookstore.
eCampus has been in business for nearly twenty years, providing online bookstore solutions to hundreds of colleges and universities. According to materials provided by eCampus, their objective is to offer students the best prices by actively monitoring daily market prices and adjusting theirs accordingly. UMF and UMFK have already adopted eCampus purchasing and have reported positive results and overall student savings in textbook purchasing, said Paquette.
Johnson has worked for the bookstore since 2001, starting as a work-study student and applied for a staff position in 2003 before her graduation in 2004. She has witnessed first hand how much the buying market for textbooks has changed over the years. Keeping a close eye on textbook shopping patterns she noticed that year after year the percentage of students shopping online versus in-store was increasing.
Together Paquette and Johnson began exploring ways to make the buying and selling process more efficient for students and faculty. After identifying eCampus as the best option, Johnson gathered deans, faculty and staff from all three USM campuses in support of moving toward online ordering and the proposal was approved by Glenn Cummings, president of USM.
The buyback process will also improve for students, specifically those on the Lewiston/Auburn and Gorham campus. Traditionally, a bookstore staff member would visit these campuses for one or two days to buy books. This was challenging for some students as these dates did not always coincide with their schedules, or the timeframe of the class ending. Now, with eCampus, students have the option to sell back their books online. eCampus will provide a free shipping label and give students a few different reimbursement options. If they opt for store credit they’ll receive a higher amount for the book and be able to apply the credit toward their books for the next semester.
This will be a more gradual change for faculty members, who will begin using eCampus to adopt books for their courses in the fall 2019 semester. While the site and design will be different, the overall process will remain the same. According to the presentation provided by Paquette and Johnson, this will simplify the process of getting a free desk copy; professors will be able to request at the same time as putting in a requisition.
While there is no longer an option for students to shop for textbooks in person, the bookstore staff will still be around to help. They will have an iPad kiosk available to assist students in navigating the website and purchasing process. Students will also have access to phone and internet support provided by eCampus.
The elimination of textbooks in the bookstore will provide more space for general interest reading, books written by faculty members, USM merchandise and clothing and an increase of Maine Law items. A potential name change is also being considered as the brick and mortar store transitions fully into a student service center. There will be no staff layoffs, but their job descriptions and day to day tasks will change as employees move into new roles.