Online textbook shopping provides competition for bookstores


In an increasingly digital world, university bookstores, including the St. Edward’s University bookstore, are competing with the alternative of online textbook shopping. 

“Obviously, there are declining sales right now across the board, which is not to be unexpected just because there are so many opportunities and different places for students to buy their books,” said Melanie Foster, manager of the St. Edward’s bookstore.

The on-campus division of the Texas Book Company has addressed this expanding online market since it came to campus in 2008.The bookstore has been renovated, increased the number of e-books each year and diversified its merchandise. 

With the growing competitive market, Foster said that the bookstore is constantly trying to come up with new strategies that will keep students as customers and bring online shoppers back to campus. 

This year, the store terminated its agreement with BookRenter and started its own in-house renting service. Foster sees this move as beneficial to both the bookstore and students because BookRenter did not always provide the books St. Edward’s students needed.

Because of the changes to the Higher Education Opportunity Act in 2008, professors have to post the books required for their classes before the semester begins. The bookstore puts this information online and allows for students to order through the bookstore on the same web page.

This is a convenient feature for the bookstore that allows students to shop on campus without leaving their dorm or apartment. The accessibility to the information also helps some students shop online other places for their books before the semester begins.

“I look on EdWeb to see what the professor has posted, and I only order from the bookstore if there are no online options,” sophomore Elissa Stanton said.

For some, the convenience motivates shoppers to return to the bookstore every semester. 

“One time I almost ordered my books online, and I would’ve had to order stuff from three different places and pay shipping three different times,” senior Monica James said. “And it just wasn’t worth it.”

James has frequented the bookstore all eight semesters at St. Edward’s. Convenience is only one reason why many students prefer shopping for books on campus.

“There is value to coming to the bookstore,” Foster said. “Unlike some other online sources, the books will always be the ones professors request and students need.”

When students buy and then sell back to the bookstore it creates a larger used market for students that decreases prices of books for the next semester, according to Foster.

The bookstore also pays rent to the university based off of the amount of money it brings in each semester, and that money goes back to the students.

Other than bringing money to the university, the bookstore benefits St. Edward’s in many ways.

“There are a lot of things we do on campus that sometimes people may not see,” Foster said.

The bookstore participates in on campus events including Earth Day. Also, Texas Book Company gives $10,000 in bookstore scholarships every year for the university to distribute to students.

“It’s good. It’s how we invest back in the university,” Foster said.

Yet, some students believe that money should be circulated outside the university system.

“I prefer to buy a used copy from a fellow student, that way the money is moving around our hands,” sophomore Ashley Lara said.

Lara has never bought a book from the bookstore and is determined that she never will because she believes the books are overpriced.

However, the bookstore has costs that students can avoid.

“There’s very little margin in textbook sales because, when you think about it, it’s very costly to get all of the books in here,”  Foster said. “Think about how much it costs you to mail a package. Now, think about mailing the hundreds of boxes of books we need to get in here.”