Baby, I’m (not) worth it: UMass Amazon store not affordable

By Ian Hagerty

The Amazon @ UMass pick-up location in the Campus Center.  (Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)
The Amazon @ UMass pick-up location in the Campus Center.
(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)
This year, the University of Massachusetts decided to close its traditional campus bookstore and replace it with an Amazon-partnered online order and pick-up center. Basically, it’s a store that functions as a hub for students to order books online from Amazon and pick them up at the same location the very next day.

But while the one-day shipping of books may sound enticing and convenient, the new Amazon student bookstore is a step backwards for the UMass book system if anything, and is also completely redundant.

For a number of years, Amazon has been an online beacon of hope for students trying to save money on books rather than buying them new from the campus bookstore for unjustifiably huge amounts of money.
As a result of the price gap, students have strayed away from buying their books on campus. Now, for some reason, UMass has built a physical store for students to order their books online.

Why on Earth would we ever need a store that only serves to house computers for students to order from and then receive those shipments?

Considering that it’s been extremely easy to order online for years now and that packages can be shipped directly to any of our front doors, what is the point in adding another step to the process? As far as I can tell, the UMass Amazon bookstore offers nothing but added inconvenience and legwork.

This new set-up does have a gimmick though, and the whole system is riding on it. The new bookstore, kiosk, Internet café – whatever it actually is – offers students one-day free shipping on their textbooks. Considering the cost of overnight shipping on Amazon, this is quite an appealing feature for speed and convenience.

Alas, there is a catch.

Remember the gravity-like draw to Amazon by students trying to find the cheapest possible deal on their college textbooks? The new UMass Amazon bookstore aims to completely dissuade students from finding these savings.

When I went to order my books online (you can order using the UMass Amazon bookstore service at home and online as well), I noticed I wasn’t allowed to have the books I selected shipped to the new campus store, not even if I chose standard shipping. The UMass Amazon online marketplace would only allow me to have certain brand-new books shipped to campus. These new books cost so much more than the used copies – I would have ended up spending at least $100 more if I used the new UMass system. I could’ve had brand new books at my house in a day, but at such a cost.

The only benefit of using the new UMass Amazon bookstore is its free and quick overnight shipping, and I couldn’t even benefit from that feature, which makes me unable to comprehend why most people would want to use this system.

If a student really has to buy new books for a class then I guess the new system is great. Otherwise, it’s disappointing that I won’t have my books for up to two weeks – and my teachers may be disappointed about that as well – but it’s simply the best option considering my financial needs.

Most of us students in college, except for a select blessed few, have to work hard to scrape every last penny we can out of our minimum wage existence. That being said, books are usually the last expense after many we face every semester of school. By the time we can order books, at least in my case, there isn’t much or any money left. So, like most college students, I’m going to make it priority No. 1 to find the best possible deal I can on my textbooks. I’ll probably never look at them again after the semester is over anyway. Will you?

When you walk through campus and see the Amazon logo hung up outside the new UMass bookstore, don’t let yourself believe it will be a sign of the fiscal relief it once represented. Instead, stay home and order your books online on the original Amazon (used is preferable). Don’t pay more and do more. And if you really want to go for a walk, go to Amherst Books and support a local business instead.

Ian Hagerty is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]