AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst has contracted with Amazon.com to replace its traditional on-campus textbook store with a virtual bookstore expected to save students about 30 percent compared with current prices on course materials and provide free, one-day shipping to campus and nearby communities. This will be Amazon’s first online university store in the Northeast and its third nationwide, with potential annual savings of $380 per student.
James P. Sheehan, UMass Amherst vice chancellor of administration and finance, said, “We know students struggle with the high cost of textbooks and other course materials, and they have been moving to online purchasing. We are delighted to help them get the most competitive prices and first-rate service. By seamlessly linking our online campus information system to Amazon, we will make it convenient as well as economical for students to get the items they need for their classes, delivered in one day with no shipping charge to campus and nearby addresses.”
Beginning in May, students will be able to order new, used, rental and digital textbooks and other course materials through Amazon or through personalized links in SPIRE, the university’s online student information system. To make finding UMass textbooks easier for students, Amazon will integrate relevant course and section information on customized Amazon product pages. In June, Amazon will also open a staffed customer pick-up and drop-off location in the Lincoln Campus Center.
For several years, students have been turning from traditional textbook stores to online sources to save money. The university’s five-year contract with Amazon will accelerate the online purchasing trend and save UMass Amherst students money, particularly through free shipping either to campus or to addresses in Amherst, Hadley, Northampton, Pelham, South Deerfield and Sunderland.
UMass Amherst officials said Amazon was chosen from six companies that submitted proposals because of its low prices and its ability to deliver superior customer service. Based on a sample of more than 1,500 course materials used in UMass Amherst classes during the 2014 spring semester, Amazon estimates it can offer UMass students a savings of 31 percent versus current bookstore prices, or around $1.4 million based on sales of textbooks at the existing UMass Bookstore. The College Board estimates that a student at a four-year state university spends $1,225 per year on textbooks and supplies, but that number varies across courses of study. Based on this rough estimate, UMass Amherst students could save about $380 annually.
“For years we’ve offered students low prices on everything from textbooks to electronics to dorm essentials on Amazon.com,” said Paul Ryder, vice president of media and student programs, Amazon. “We're excited to team up with UMass to bring a new bookstore experience to campus that saves students money and makes it more convenient to get the course materials and other school supplies they need.”
This will be Amazon.com’s third such arrangement with a college, the others being with Purdue University in Indiana and the University of California, Davis.
Along with providing textbooks and course materials to students, Amazon will also assume responsibility for working with faculty to collect information on required and recommended textbooks and course materials each semester. Beginning in March, Amazon will provide faculty with an online tool to find, compare and select course materials for the classes they are teaching. Amazon is also working with the UMass Libraries and the Online Web-Based Learning (OWL) program to ensure that professors and students have easy access to low-cost or freely available course materials on campus.
The existing 8,553-square-foot textbook annex will be replaced by a staffed Amazon pick-up location of about 3,000 square feet in the Campus Center. Students will also be able to pick up their Amazon orders from Amazon Lockers at residential areas on campus. Follett Corp. will continue to operate the UMass Amherst University Store, which carries items from clothing to computers but not textbooks, in the Campus Center.
All UMass Amherst students will be eligible for free one-day shipping on textbooks and course materials used in courses at UMass when shipped to the Amherst campus area. Additionally, Amazon Student and Amazon Prime members at UMass Amherst will be eligible for free one-day pickup on other items purchased through Amazon.com when shipped to the campus pick-up location. More information on Amazon Student can be found at amazon.com/joinstudent.