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Bookstore faces loss of academic texts

(Emily Burian) Online booksellers are beating out the bookstore in sales.
(Emily Burian)
Online booksellers are beating out the bookstore in sales.

Students can say goodbye to the academic textbooks in the Mills College bookstore, beginning this 2016 summer session.

Due to low book sales and online competition, Mills’ bookstore vendor Brick and Mortar Follett will no longer continue its contract after three years.  Since mid-February, a committee, comprised of members from the administration, has been searching for a new bookstore vendor in time for this upcoming summer session.

Dorothy Calimeris, Director of Auxiliary Services, claims that low book sales have been an issue for many years. During the eight years that Calimeris has been at Mills, bookstore sales have gone down one-third.

“This is not unique to Mills,” Calimeris said. “This is industry wide. Book sales have tanked in higher education.”

Online stores like Amazon and Chegg have become popular sources for students to buy books rather than use the on campus store. Both sites are known to offer textbooks at cheaper prices compared to Mills’ bookstore. To combat this, the committee is looking towards providing a virtual bookstore where students can buy books online and have them shipped directly.

The committee has spoken to three online vendors—eFollett, eCampus, and Akademos—who can provide books at a cheaper price compared to Follett’s present in-store prices. Students should expect significant price drops compared to what Follett currently offers. The committee believes that having cheaper books online though the new vendor will be more convenient for students’ needs.

According to Calimeris, the book Managerial Accounting 6th Edition can currently be bought new for $320 or used for $208 in the bookstore. With the virtual bookstore students can buy the same book new for $276 or used for $122. The prices are strikingly different for rental books: that same book’s rental-cost goes for $208.33 new and  $112.18 used, but through the virtual bookstore the rental price is $9.92.

The three vendors offer an Extended Market Place (similar to Amazon) where students can buy used books though the market place from additional sellers nationwide. This will allow students to buy the same book at an even cheaper price.

Because the bookstore will no longer sell books, the space will become a convenience store that will offer food and Mills apparel for sale. Dean of Students Dr. Chicora Martin plans on working with students on what they envision for the space. Taking into account of the new store’s size, this group will discuss the possibility of moving the store to a new smaller space in Rothwell.

Commuter student Rae Gray, would like to see the new convenience store provide more basic supplies and small grocery items. Rather than have to take the bus to a grocery store, Gray says that having more food options on campus would be more useful than getting a book.

Interim Provost Dr. Sharon Washington believes that having a virtual store will give Mills the opportunity to be more creative with providing resources to students.

“It does feel like we are taking the bookstore into the 21st century and going where students are already leading,” Washington said.

The Campanil will provide more updates as they become available.