We sat down with MBS’ Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jeff Miller to discuss the benefits MBS brings to partner schools through the size of the company and inventory.
What sets MBS apart from companies who provide a similar service?
We offer a massive inventory that is so much bigger than any other player in the industry. Students today still prefer used textbooks and the quality used textbook is the lowest cost to the student. Also, a used book can become a rental book at an even lower out-of-pocket cost. Those savings and the selection are what drive students to shop in our bookstore partner stores as well as on their websites.
How does MBS’ scale save students money?
We have so many sources of used inventory coming back here through online and in-store buybacks and the other different avenues we have within the company. That gets us the most amount of inventory. That scale is then replicated out to our partner schools. Our acquisition by Barnes & Noble Education, and our partnership that has been in place for over thirty years with Barnes & Noble College, adds a whole other stream of inventory that gets shared amongst our entire partner client base. So now we are working on a project with Barnes & Noble College to bring in additional inventory that we have never had access to, opening up additional opportunities for all of our partner schools.
What are the main benefits to choosing a partnership with a large company?
This is a hard time to be a bookstore and selling course materials. There are so many different intermediaries out there trying to disrupt the channel: publishers going direct to students, all the different online sources of course materials and startup players coming in and out of the business all the time. I think being with a large company provides a bookstore partner store with stability. Knowing that they can count on us to be their supply source, their primary person to go to for those quality used books, is a big piece of what provides those partners comfort and the ability to sleep at night.
How does customer service differentiate MBS from the competition?
There’s a number of ways. It is a testimony to our scale. The amount of people we have here, that we have invested in, to take care of our partner client stores is second to none. Partner stores always know they are going to have someone on the other end of the phone as well as our feet-on-the-street reps who are out there helping them on a day-to-day basis. That’s the big piece. We have also been groundbreaking on some of the things that we have done. On the Systems side, the different innovations we have made over the years help stores order more efficiently. Beyond that, the programs and services here, like the people in Textbook Management Services, are really unique in the industry. They help the schools better understand their bookstore timing, their cycle of adoptions, where they’re sourcing and what the calendar for doing all of that looks like — just helping them be the most effective store they can be is unique. We can do that because of the scale and the size of our company.
What are the benefits of using a single provider for everything?
There is never going to be a true single provider. We pride ourselves on having the most inventory out there, but certainly stores are going to look to other places for inventory if there is not an easy way to get all their books from one place. I don’t think it’s possible to have every copy of every unit that’s adopted, but certainly we pride ourselves on being the largest one. Then also being able to utilize all the partnerships we have with different publishers in other places to help procure books certainly is a great benefit for a school.
What digital offerings does MBS provide?
Our digital offerings are primarily focused through two providers, VitalSource and RedShelf. We partner with both of them and typically we see schools that have a preference for one or two of those different providers. Those digital services are pretty all-encompassing as far as the number of textbooks adoptions we see out there. We feel really strongly about the partnerships we have done with both of those entities. They have been beneficial to both our systems users as well as our wholesale clients who utilize another system.
What types of products and services does MBS provide?
All types of products and services. Specifically, I think the biggest piece is helping the schools try to get the amount of textbooks their students want, either through traditional wholesale purchases of used or they can purchase new textbooks from us at a discount — which is a benefit not a lot of schools utilize.
What developments does MBS have on the horizon?
We are very excited about a development project underway to help schools be more efficient in sourcing textbooks from the marketplace. It’s been a huge project for us and we are excited about being able to help stores do what today is a very manual, labor-intensive process. Going out to the marketplace and procuring books one at a time requires a huge use of school resources. Having us utilize our scale to do that on their behalf and then combine that with their standard wholesale want-listing and standard bin-and-hold process will save time. It will also allow us to ship their order in one shipment to the store and blend costs across our invoice to them. I think it will be a huge savings. We are excited, as that continues to develop, to roll that out to stores in the near future.