The Baldwin Wallace Bookstore is going digital.
Aisles stacked with textbooks for students to browse through will be a thing of the past as the store’s plan is to transition to a system based around online orders, said George Schiller, director of bookstore operations. The change will be noticeable, he said.
“You won’t be able to go through [the store] and pick your books,” he said.
He explained that in-store purchases will be entirely handled through online orders or by employees behind the counter who will gather books based on the student’s schedule.
One of the advantages of moving the books behind the counter is that they can be organized more efficiently than they have in the past, said Schiller.
The move to increased digital orders will eliminate the course-based listing and move to a more traditional A-Z listing by author so bookstore employees can process orders more effectively, he said. However, for those who still prefer to buy books in person, there will be counter service available.
“If you came in and hadn’t ordered online, we have a program that lets us know what your class listing is. We can then print an alphabetical list and get those books and take them to the counter,” said Schiller. “The reason to go to counter service is that then all the books are arranged alphabetically by author. Then it’s much easier for us to pick in order going from A-Z than it is to pick the order having all the different alphabet all over the place.”
The availability of online retailers selling textbooks for increasingly competitive prices has created a competitive market for retailers, and Schiller says that these retailers have been a major force in encouraging the transition.
“Knowing you can shop at Amazon and those other places is a powerful tool in itself because it drives us to be less expensive,” said Schiller.
The bookstore website includes a tool that allows students to compare textbook prices with other websites, he said, and despite what many might think, the bookstore often has a better pirce.
“Chegg, Amazon, Textbooks.com, barnesandnoble.com, and in many cases, we win those one-on-one battles,” said Schiller. “The result is the overall cost of the student is less than it’s been for their book bill.”
Besides competitive pricing, the BW store also offers services that are unavailable through online retailers: the customer service turnaround is faster because of the on-campus location and staff.
“They don’t provide the types of services we do in the store,” said Schiller. “If you change your class — instead of this title you need this title and you need to get going — we can take it back and replace it and you can just keep going. That’s an advantage that I think online sellers, no matter who they are, don’t have”
In addition to a growing online marketplace, the move to more digital sales comes with the growing trend of digital textbooks in place of hard copies. Some programs, like mathematics and economics, have been shedding their physical books for electronic ones, Schiller said.
“There isn’t a math class under 200[-level] that’s using a book: from 020 to 199,” said Schiller.
For some classes, he said, the classroom tools like homework, quizzes and tests created by the textbook publisher are useful for professors tailoring the learning experience to better fit the issues different classes may have with the material.
“A learning session can be made to suit what is happening in a particular classroom. They learn from their online experience by doing homework, by reading the books,” said Schiller.
According to Dave Jensen, director of Auxiliary Services, there is a possibility that the overall size of the store may decrease with the upcoming changes.
He has not yet “heard what the final decision of whether the store will be downsized, or when that will occur,” he said. He did note the project has been “under discussion for over 6 months, so I wouldn’t be surprised to hear something soon.”