Hoping to counter established college retailers and recent start-ups, Wallace's last month became the last of the major college players to launch an e-commerce site.

Despite its late entry, the site, eCampus.com, hopes to compete by spending $23 million on such promotional tools as national TV and print ads. To fund these activities, it has attracted capital from such entrepreneurs as Wendy's fast-food chain founder Dave Thomas. With this money, the company hopes to attract students who are familiar with the store, as well as those who are not.

Varsitybooks.com, Bigwords.com, Follett and Barnes & Noble have all been online for several months. But the longer wait time, noted eCampus, could work in its favor. "The extra time enabled us to do a considerable amount of research and incorporate things that don't exist on other sites," explained Doug Alexander, a spokesperson for the site. Among those, he added, was a pop-up feature that d sn't require visitors to leave the page to learn what is in their shopping cart. Alexander also reported that the company is looking into potential partnerships with e-book manufacturers; it was too early to comment on them, however, or on what the company's discount policy would be, though he did say that eCampus will "act competitively."

Steve Stevens, president and COO of Wallace's, will serve as president and CEO of eCampus.