UMass to replace University Store’s textbook annex with virtual Amazon bookstore

By Aviva Luttrell

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Collegian file photo

Collegian file photo

A new contract between the University of Massachusetts and Amazon.com will soon make the Textbook Annex a thing of the past, replacing the brick-and-mortar store with a virtual bookstore that is expected to save students money.

This will be Amazon’s first online university store in the Northeast and its third in the nation, according to a UMass press release. The deal is expected to save students 30 percent compared with current prices on course materials, with potential savings adding up to about $380 per student. It will also provide free, one-day shipping to campus and surrounding communities.

“We know students struggle with the high cost of textbooks and other course materials, and they have been moving to online purchasing,” said James P. Sheehan, vice chancellor of administration and finance at UMass, in the release. “We are delighted to help them get the most competitive prices and first-rate service.”

Beginning in May, students will be able to order and rent textbooks, digital textbooks and other course materials through Amazon or through personalized links in SPIRE, according to the release. Amazon will also include course and section information on customized product pages to make finding textbooks easier for UMass students.

The University’s five-year contract with Amazon will provide free shipping to campus, as well as to addresses in Amherst, Hadley, Northampton, Pelham, South Deerfield and Sunderland.

“For years we’ve offered students low prices on everything from textbooks to electronics to dorm essentials on Amazon,” said Paul Ryder, vice president of media and student programs at Amazon, in the release. “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.”

The University’s 8,553-square-foot textbook annex will be replaced by a staffed 3,000-square-foot Amazon pick-up location in the Campus Center in June, according to the release. Students will also be able to pick up their orders from Amazon Lockers at residential areas on campus. Additionally, Amazon Student and Amazon Prime members at UMass will be eligible for free one-day pickup on other items purchased through Amazon.com when shipped to the new Campus Center pick-up location, according to the release.

Follett Corp., which manages the University Store and textbook annex, will continue to operate the University Store in the Campus Center, which sells clothing, electronics and more.

According to the release, UMass officials selected Amazon from six companies that submitted proposals because of its low prices and “superior” customer service.

Amazon will also work with faculty to collect information on textbooks and course materials each semester, according to the release. It will also provide faculty with an online tool to find, compare and select course materials, and will work with the UMass Libraries and the Online Web-Based Learning program to ensure that professors and students can access free or low-cost course materials on campus.

Amazon currently has similar arrangements with Purdue University and the University of California, Davis.

Aviva Luttrell can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @AvivaLuttrell.