To ensure students have the materials they need to be most successful in hand by the start of their classes, faculty and bookstores need to work together. Unfortunately, misconceptions and communication issues can — and frequently do — disrupt this important relationship.
Faculty who perceive bookstore prices as unfairly high may suggest to their students to shop directly through Amazon. This ultimately creates problems for everyone involved, and Flagler College Bookstore Owner Trevor Smith wanted to get ahead of it this year.
The following is an email Smith sent to faculty on campus to illustrate the store's goals in helping students succeed. He feels it's been successful: so far, transactions are up 20% over last year.
Greetings from the Flagler College Bookstore!
We're excited about the new semester. We had over 1,000 Flagler students visit the bookstore by the first day of class, 450 textbook reservations and 550 online orders. That's pretty amazing in this online retailing day and age. We take it as a compliment. We know Flagler's students and faculty alike appreciate our competitive pricing and continual strive for excellent, personal customer service. We are not an anonymous, soulless internet company. We are not run by a billion dollar corporation. We are vested in the Flagler College community. We employ Flagler College graduates and students. We are an independent small business that knows what it takes to compete with Amazon. We also know prices are the most important factor for students. To that end, our average student's course material cost per semester is significantly less than the national average.
I am writing this to thank all of you for your continued support. Without your help and cooperation we would cease to exist. All industry reports show that students listen to professors regarding books. Please check your book information and pricing on our website. We show students and teachers the bookstore's purchase and rental prices and compare them to the lowest prices available on Amazon and Half.com. This year we have heard many students that have checked Amazon first and ultimately chose us because of our competitive pricing. We are always looking for ways to improve our service for the Flagler students. They are our final grade.
Additionally, we have a couple of new programs that we're excited about. Our new Textbook Price Matching Guarantee program speaks for itself. If anyone finds a book from another bonafide retail source for less than what they paid at the Flagler College Bookstore, we will refund the difference. (So far one student has caught us on this.The difference: $7.) Our new Loyalty Program has already been a huge success. 99% of students have opted into the program that gives them 5% back on all of their purchases. We are honored.
On a less positive note, a few students have come to us for their books, but they weren't in stock because the teachers had failed to inform the bookstore of their book adoptions. A couple of these students have told us which books the teachers required in their syllabus. Two teachers had told their students to go directly to Amazon. This is a problem for several reasons, but mainly because some students are not able to buy their books online (they don't have credit cards, they are waiting on financial aid, they are part of the Veterans Affairs or Vocational Rehabilitation program, the uncertainty of ordering online, etc.), and, as importantly, the HEOA guidelines require the college bookstore to publish an accurate booklist for students. We also don't like to appear clueless. Additionally, there are many reasons why it behooves Flagler College students to buy or rent their books from us besides our two new programs: our payment deferral program, competitive pricing, our easy and immediate refund/exchange policy, etc.
We will always work with you to adopt your books, even if it's after our adoption deadline. We accept adoptions in almost any format: email, our online adoption program (which we are hoping to improve this fall), paper, phone call or in person. Please let us know how we can help you and in the process get Flagler students the right books at the right price.
Finally, we want you to know we are watching eBooks — and publishers, in general — closely. National sales of textbook ebooks were only 2.5% last year. Regardless we continue to offer ebooks whenever possible if it saves students money. Likewise, another albatross publishers like to push on faculty and students alike are loose-leaf bundles. Rarely does it make economic sense for the students to get these and we usually advise faculty against them. The publishers and their reps are persistent, however, and sometimes get the loose leaf bundles adopted. We encourage all of you to pick the best course materials at the best value for your class and your students, regardless of what the publishers are pushing!
Thank you for your time. Please visit us when you get the chance. We have put together our unique retail section over the past few years and now have some of the quirkiest, coolest gifts for under $20 in this town. And you always get 20% off everything.
Thank you and see you soon!— Trevor Smith, Flagler College Bookstore