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Textbook pricing and purchasing explained

Michigan+Tech+is+one+of+only+three+major+universities+in+the+state+that+still+has+an+official+on-campus+text+bookstore.+Managers+Shane+Sullivan+and+Don+Kilpela+explained+to+The+Lode+how+textbooks+have+changed+in+the+age+of+Amazon.%09Image+by+Aswin+Muralidharan
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Textbook pricing and purchasing explained

Michigan Tech is one of only three major universities in the state that still has an official on-campus text bookstore. Managers Shane Sullivan and Don Kilpela explained to The Lode how textbooks have changed in the age of Amazon.	Image by Aswin Muralidharan

Michigan Tech is one of only three major universities in the state that still has an official on-campus text bookstore. Managers Shane Sullivan and Don Kilpela explained to The Lode how textbooks have changed in the age of Amazon. Image by Aswin Muralidharan

Michigan Tech is one of only three major universities in the state that still has an official on-campus text bookstore. Managers Shane Sullivan and Don Kilpela explained to The Lode how textbooks have changed in the age of Amazon. Image by Aswin Muralidharan

Michigan Tech is one of only three major universities in the state that still has an official on-campus text bookstore. Managers Shane Sullivan and Don Kilpela explained to The Lode how textbooks have changed in the age of Amazon. Image by Aswin Muralidharan


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OnCampus Research, the research arm of the National Association of College Stores recently released the findings of a 2016 survey of nearly 25,000 students from 90 institutions in the United States and Canada.

The study found that the average student spends $327 on course material and that most students used either their campus bookstore or Amazon to purchase course material, though nearly half of the students also rented course material. The study also found that over half of all student respondents had already procured their course material prior to the week before class.
While the average cost that students paid for course material declined slightly, possibly due to an increase in purchases from online retailers, the study also found that many students are required to purchase more course material than in previous years. This has resulted in the net expenditure on books remaining fairly constant.

Borrowing course materials as opposed to purchasing them is also an increasing trend, paired with the decreasing purchasing of course materials has also been the trend for the last five years, although purchasing remains the most common method of acquiring course materials. Similarly, the use of digital course materials is slightly on the rise, although hard-copy course materials are still significantly more common.

Also noted in the survey is the fact that while online retailers, notably Amazon, have become more popular, they have not surpassed campus bookstores as the primary outlet for course material. The study also found that roughly 75 percent of educators suggested that their students use the campus store rather than Amazon. “It’s been an ongoing thing since Amazon,” explained Don Kilpela, Textbook Manager at the Michigan Tech Bookstore.

As a member of the National Association of College Stores, Michigan Tech’s Bookstore has access to and plays a part in the generation of the statistics used by OnCampus Research. Having been in the textbook industry for over thirty years, Kilpela has a personal understanding of the business. “Amazon isn’t doing anything to save you money, they’re doing everything to make money, and sometimes that makes you money,” said Kilpela.

Tech’s bookstore has also been affected by the increasing use of digital coursework, which Kilpela says is being pushed by publishers because it is cheaper to produce and cannot be resold. This means that digital coursework can be sold at a higher profit, and it must be obtained through the publisher. “Publishers aren’t evil,” said Kilpela, “they’re in the business to make money.”
Michigan Tech’s bookstore has been working with e-textbook vendors, info-sharing companies and price-matching software, as well as with Tech faculty to create a new method for professors to choose books for their courses, and for students to find the best access to them. The student side of this program can be accessed through the Tech Bookstore website by clicking the “Comparison Shopping” link on the right-hand side of the page. “We’re doing everything we can. We’re not the enemy,” said manager Shane Sullivan. “We’re here to make sure the students succeed.”

To be a part of decisions made by Tech’s bookstore, as well as contribute to national research, students are encouraged to fill out semesterly surveys sent out by the bookstore regarding course material requirements and how they are met.

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Textbook pricing and purchasing explained