Bookstore transitions to selling books online only

By: Kate Rogers, Staff Writer

At the end of last semester, the USM bookstore announced that they would be converting to an online-only system for textbook purchases. Online ordering was available previously as a secondary option through the bookstore, but the school has now partnered with an online textbook vendor called eCampus to become the sole method of purchasing books. Now that the new semester has begun, students and faculty are expressing their concerns and experiences with the new system. In response, the bookstore administrators are working to collect feedback and make the transition as smooth as possible.

eCampus serves to make textbook buying cheaper, more convenient and more safe for students which is why the school decided to partner with them according to Kathy Ostergaard, the textbook coordinator for USM. The company looks at multiple sources to acquire their books, making those books you can get used on amazon available in the same place as everything else. Their sources are vetted, said Ostergaard. There is less risk of not receiving a book on time or at all, and the quality is ensured.

A main concern about textbooks is price. There are several ways that eCampus helps students save more money than the original system allowed them to. General Manager of the Bookstore, Catherine Johnson, was optimistic about the new program and said that she is already seeing a significant decrease in prices. Not only are some standard prices lower, but eCampus offers many rentals for fractions of the buying price. An example Johnson gave was a used book on sale for $180 with a rental price of only $11. “That’s an outlier perhaps…depending on what people take they may or may not experience that same price decrease.” Johnson said. “However, I am definitely seeing many cheaper books.”

Another change that will help students save and will increase convenience is the new buyback program through eCampus. Not only can students do the buy back through the website as an alternative option to going to campus to do it, there is a system where they can sell peer to peer. eCampus is an international company and sells to other universities, which increases the chance that there will be a need for students used books, which does increase how much some books are worth. Another buyback option for students who plan to return is that they can choose to get eCampus credit for their books which is worth more and will save them money the next time they use the service.

One of the biggest problems for students at the start of this semester was wait times for books. “We are hoping we can improve it next semester,” said Johnson. However, they are also counting on people becoming aware and consequently more familiar with the system in the future and being able to order their books sooner. “We’ll continue to make sure it’s part of every orientation and every advising session,” said Jeanne Paquette, Vice President of Corporate Engagement.

Ostergaard spoke on one of the less anticipated problems. USM tries to support what their faculty want as class material, even if that includes things less easier to acquire— like older editions of textbooks, Kathy Ostergaard said. Previously, the bookstore would spend some time trying to gather those so they could have them in stock but this change did put a hitch in that. Media studies professor David Pierson said that he had to change his syllabi slightly to accommodate for the change. However, Ostergaard assures that this is a problem they are working to fix for next semester. They hope to partner with eCampus to do this.

The bookstore managers are finding that eCampus is incredibly supportive and are working with us to fix the problems students are having very quickly. However, if students or faculty need help with anything or want to give feedback, they are encouraged to visit, call or email the bookstore. There are iPads and computers available so that students can go through the process in the bookstore. “We’ll even stand right next to someone from start to finish to make sure they understood how to place the order,” said Johnson.

“It’s a change, but we totally believe that it’s a positive change for our students,” said Paquette. As they work out the bugs and continue to educate the community, the bookstore staff hopes that students and faculty will appreciate and benefit from this new system.

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