As the back to school season nears, the competition for textbook sales continues to heat up. In a deal that bears striking similarities to ones that Amazon crafted with Purdue and UMass Amherst over the past year, eCampus.com will handle textbook sales virtually for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee starting this fall. Books will be delivered to the school's residences via free, two-day shipping.
While Amazon is the exclusive textbook provider at some campus stores, at other stores like University of California, Davis, it provides additional goods. The partnerships work because they give Amazon access to thousands of potential customers for the many other items available on its marketplace. It also gives Amazon an opportunity to develop customers for life.
Although eCampus.com sells and rents textbooks exclusively, it has affiliate relationships with more than 300 online retailers. According to yesterday’s UWM announcement, students and their families can earn credit toward book purchases by shopping those retailers. Purchases by alumni and faculty will also earn credit, which will go toward providing student scholarships.
Like Amazon's deal Purdue, which saw Amazon open its first campus store in February, the eCampus.com agreement includes a physical presence on campus. Construction will begin next month on a new Panther Spirit Shop and Virtual Bookstores, where eCampus.com will have a kiosk.
“This program offers savings to students that just wouldn’t be possible with a brick-and-mortar bookstore,” said Scott Peak, UWM’s executive director of Auxiliary Services. “Schools across the country are going to be moving to online book sales because it is so cost-effective.” The university estimates that students could save up to 60%, or $480 on the purchase of textbooks and materials through eCampus.com.
As reported by the Digital Reader, the bookstore RFP showed a decline in sales at UWM’s physical bookstore, which the virtual textbook store is intended to stem. Sales decreased 15% between Fiscal 2010 and Fiscal 2014 or a total of $1,323,521, while enrollment decreased 7.2% over the same time period.
The UWM contract with eCampus.com guarantees annual payments of $375,000 the first year up to $500,000 in year 5, for a total value of $2,150,000.