How To Transition Your College Bookstore To E-Textbooks

Written by Danny Mareco Danny Mareco | September 29, 2015 | Read Time: 4 mins

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For students growing up in the mobile age, digital textbooks make so much more sense considering their constant use of tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices in and out of the classroom. However, transitioning the college bookstore from print to e-textbooks poses a myriad of challenges for colleges and universities, with most not even knowing where to start.

Students today want  easy access to learning resources, the same way they can easily find any information with the touch of their fingertips. They also want cheaper alternatives to the traditional printed textbook as the additional $1,200 doesn't make many students and parents very happy.

In fact, according to Student PIRG, out of the surveyed 2,000 students from 150 campuses, 65% don’t even own textbooks due to financial constraints and 94% are concerned that their grades would suffer because of it.

Most will seek out less expensive options such as used textbooks, photocopies, online bookstores, textbook rentals, etc. 

In addition, just under half of the students surveyed said that the cost of textbooks had a direct impact as to which classes they would take. 

Ultimately, 82% of students call for free online access to textbooks, which they believe would help them do “significantly better” in class.

“Students should be focused on taking the classes they need, not kept out because they feel they have to choose between their textbooks and rent,” said Senack, the report’s author. “We know that if more campuses and if more states made the commitment ... we would be able to save students millions in dollars per year.” 

Now that we’ve established the demand for e-textbooks, you might be asking, “Where do I begin? How can I transition the traditional college bookstore into a digital retailer?”

Step 1: Negotiate

The first step has to do with simple math. Currently most content providers barely get a 20% guarantee or "sell-through" when it comes to traditional textbook sales from colleges and universities. 

Simply talk to your content providers or publishers and offer them a 100% guaranteed sales rate in exchange for the lowest price possible on all e-textbook and supplemental content.

Step 2: Organization is Key

It's important that your faculty is on the same page and that you have a plan to quickly and effectively process each ebook sale. 

The easiest way to do this would be to simply collect the costs from each student at the same time tuition and other fees are collected. 

This is exactly how lab fees and other mandatory costs are processed and it seems to work very transparently and with minimal issues.

In addition, this will also ensure that each student is fully prepared for class right at the beginning of each new semester. 

This basic e-textbook model is only one of the ways to start converting your college bookstore to digital e-textbooks.

However, there are other models that can be followed.

Course Fee Model:

This is the model we mentioned above where fees are assessed by the university as part of the tuition and students pay the school for access to the digital materials. The college will then pass on payment to the content providers as per agreement. 

Indiana University, a tier-one research institution with eight campuses and 110,000 students, follows this model. 

Bookstore Model:

Here you can authorize the college bookstore to manage the delivery and billing of e-textbooks. It bills the students directly and pays the content provider for the digital content.

The University of Minnesota, with 69,000 students at a main campus in St. Paul and six other campuses in other locations, uses this type of model. 

Flat Rate Model:

With this model, a fixed fee is charged across classes, no matter what e-textbook is being used. This makes it easy to tally the final cost.

Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi uses this model for its 5,500 students. 

Digital content is the direction education is going and jumping on-board will help keep you ahead of the curve. If you’re considering going digital, make sure that your school’s wireless network can support the sudden and overwhelming influx of connectivity demand. Preparation is key in new deployments of this magnitude. 

You are probably already noticing the increasing numbers of mobile devices on your campus wifi network and a digital textbook strategy while extremely valuable will only add to the challenge of delivering the level of connectivity your students are demanding.

This makes it extremely important that you have the right wireless infrastructure in place to support your current and any new goals that you have. 

Before you deploy a system like this make sure you do your homework and analyze your wireless network, you'll be glad you did in the long run.

At SecurEdge we've been helping colleges and universities of all sizes and types to deliver robust, secure mobility for their students and staff for almost a decade. If you have any questions about updating your wireless network to meet the growing demand on your campus, simply contact us here, we’d be glad to help.

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