Recently, MBS Vice President of Inventory Control Mike Tolly sat down with us to share his thoughts and impressions about his panel at CAMEX, Publisher Consignment Rentals: Implementing In-store and at Scale. There, he was joined by Jessica Hickman, senior director course materials services at IndiCo, and Kevin Leitner, director of bookstore operations for Florence O. Wilson Bookstore at the College of Wooster. During the panel they discussed the opportunities and challenges publisher consignment rentals present to today’s independent college stores.
Can you tell me about publisher consignment rentals?
Publisher consignment rentals are a collection of titles that have been earmarked by the publisher for rentals. It’s really another way to offer students more affordable course materials. Publishers McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson offer these books at a price less than the new book selling price which helps bookstores provide students with the savings they are looking for and provide faculty with the latest editions.
The publisher consignment rental program has been around for about a year. In that time, the publishers have doubled the number of titles in the program, so it is growing. However, at its core, it is still a bookstore program. Publishers aren’t trying to circumvent the store. This is a partnership opportunity for bookstores that can help better serve students. They have distribution partners like MBS, IndiCo and Nebraska Book Company.
How are publisher rentals different than store run rentals?
It’s a little different than the rental program stores may be doing already where they can pick and choose titles and set prices. With consignment rentals, publishers do that. They pick the titles and have more control over prices, nonreturn fees and rental terms. Also, stores must report the transactions to their distribution partner every month.
For an MBS Systems partners, it’s super easy. We do it for them. We can pull their point-of-sale data and do it. For a non-MBS systems store, they have to fill out the template, which takes a little time.
Why is it important for stores to have this as an available option for adoptions?
It is another offering to support lowering prices for students. It is an affordability issue. It is not the only affordability program out there. It’s one of many — like offering rental, inclusive access or good old-fashioned used books. It also enables your store to accommodate any adoption faculty chooses, supporting academic freedom.
While students could rent the consignment books from other places, this program levels the playing field on price for college stores. Your college store wins on convenience and service. You’re there with the students on campus and there is no price advantage renting anywhere else. Also, there is no inventory risk for stores. The publishers own the books. You can have the books shipped to you and if you don’t need them, you can have them shipped back. There’s no liability. You pay when the books rent. That’s it.
What advice would you give stores if publisher consignment rental doesn’t work for them?
I encourage stores to speak up if it doesn’t work for you. Talk with your reps and tell them what doesn’t work. They can help you find solutions or other options might work better. That might be a custom book, it might be a loose leaf, a digital book, etc. Publisher rentals are an offering that you can choose to help save students money, but it’s not the one and only offering. Digital, for example, doesn’t work for every campus and every student, so here is another program that might work. It’s just important your store has and is willing to provide all of the options available in the industry.
What do you hope the audience took away from the panel discussion?
I hope stores approach this opportunity with an open mind. It is about serving your campus and students. Stores need to understand how the program works and then work in collaboration with their campus and faculty to make sure it is the right program for the individual classes that adopt publisher consignment rental books. After the session, a store manager told me how their store loves the program. She elaborated saying that the store had no risk with these books. She didn’t have to be careful about how many books she ordered because of that. Basically, it simplified the decision-making process and reduced the cost to students. She finished with saying it was a little bit of work, but ultimately, it is worthwhile.