UMD Stores has added over 500 titles to their textbook rental program and decreased prices of textbooks by 5 percent. The Student Association (SA) and UMD Stores have been collaboratively working on expanding textbook rental opportunities as well as making prices more affordable for students since the beginning of last year.
“Our main purpose is to make sure we have course materials available for students and that they are affordable,” said Director of UMD Stores Jeff Romano.
UMD Stores sent out an email to its student employees to get feedback from them on textbooks and rentals and found out that price was a big factor.
“We want to be competitive with other companies and keep business on campus,” Romano said.
SA also conducted surveys as well as hosted events such as “Yell like Hell” in which students could express their ideas for improving the campus experience. Similar to the findings of the survey through UMD Stores, they found that students thought the prices of textbooks were too high.
“We wanted to try to work with the school store to get some more textbook options and prices more affordable,” said Kendra Eisenchenk, member of the Academic Affairs Committee of SA.
In response to the feedback they received as well as a need to remain competitive with other companies, the store has decided to make some changes.
They have invested in a software called Verba, which allows them to see the current market value of the book and compare their prices to other companies. It also makes recommendations of what prices the store should sell or rent their books out in order to remain competitive and make a profit.
This software also provides a tool on the UMD Stores textbook website where students can compare UMD’s prices to other companies such as Amazon and textbooks.com.
“We will keep looking at other companies and making comparisons to see if there are other companies we should add to the list,” Romano said.
Another initiative UMD Stores is working on is lowering the prices of both new textbooks and rentals for students. Romano said they have been looking into different wholesale book companies that sell the titles they need for cheaper prices and in large quantities so they can in turn sell the books at lower prices.
“We are not trying to be the cheapest, but competitive,” Romano said.
UMD Stores is also trying to adjust their buyback program, which enables students to sell back their books at the end of the semester. Romano explained that there are a lot of factors that determine how much the student can get back.
“The pricing used to be very black and white. It is now more variable and students can get up to 50 percent back of what they paid,” Romano said.
UMD Stores is also using the Verba software to ensure that they are offering students the correct amount of money when they sell them back.
If a title is not available for rent through the UMD Stores students can also go to the UMD Stores textbook website and click on the SKYO logo. SKYO is a separate company that offers textbook rentals that is a partner of UMD.
“We want to make sure that students can get titles we don’t have somewhere else,” Romano said.
Eisenchenk is very excited for the progress the store has made and thinks SA and the store have worked very well together.
“UMD Stores is trying to make major changes but students don’t know about them. We want students to understand how hard they are working to accommodate students,” Eisenchenk said. Eisenchenk thinks that UMD Stores is doing a good job at looking at it from both the profit standpoint as well as the student standpoint.
“On top of profits they want to see student satisfaction,” Eisenchenk said.
Due to the lower numbers of the incoming freshman class this year, UMD Stores has not been able to make the same revenue they have in the past, but are still trying to lower their prices and create options.
“Our hope in this process is to make more sales from the students that are here,” Romano said.
Senior Mark Piemel, engineering major, feels it is important that UMD Stores lower their prices of textbooks. However, he does not think expanding the rental options will affect him.
“Renting is not a good option for me because I need my books later on in my career,” Piemel said.
Amanda Johnson, graphic design major, said she usually purchases her books elsewhere.
“I usually just buy from friend because it is cheaper,” Johnson said.
Regardless of if students buy or rent their books, UMD Stores is hoping to encourage students to keep their business within the university community.
BY SHANNON KINLEY firstname.lastname@example.org