Students believe new Amazon store makes textbook buying cheaper and more convenient

By Shelby Ashline

The new Amazon @ UMass virtual bookstore, located in the Campus Center. Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian
The new Amazon @ UMass virtual bookstore, located in the Campus Center.
(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

As students prepare for the first semester at the University of Massachusetts with a virtual Amazon bookstore instead of the traditional Textbook Annex, feelings are optimistic and enthusiastic.

Although not all students order their books through Amazon, many students are familiar with the website, making the transition to the virtual bookstore easier.

“It brings the experience people have at home and implements it into campus life,” UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said.

Prior to the implementation of the virtual bookstore, UMass conducted a study to assess how many students would use it. By analyzing the number of textbooks Amazon shipped to Amherst and surrounding towns, Blaguszewski and UMass administrators determined ordering textbooks online is becoming increasingly common.

“The number of textbooks sold at traditional stores like the Textbook Annex was diminishing,” Blaguszewski said. He believes that the UMass partnership with Amazon will continue to accelerate the trend.

Junior management major Christian Lewis said that Amazon is his go-to website for ordering textbooks as well as many other products.

“I use Amazon for almost everything,” Lewis said. “From textbooks to car tires, I love Amazon.”

Although Lewis said he has not yet used UMass’s new system, he is “in good spirits about the change,” in part because he was “not a fan” of the old system, eFollett.

“The search function took forever and the prices were disparate,” Lewis said of eFollett. “Some (prices) were pretty competitive with Amazon and some other sites, but some other prices were ridiculous. As a college student, I’m looking for a bargain.”

The affordability of Amazon’s textbooks and the website’s wide selection are key to its success with students, junior marketing and sports management major Kathryn McGonagle said.

“I bought or rented almost all of my textbooks and other class materials from Amazon because of their selection and prices,” she explained. “If (Amazon) stays true to that model and those standards, I think (the partnership with UMass) will be very helpful to students.”

Erin Connors, a sophomore anthropology major, agrees with McGonagle, saying that she thinks the partnership will save students money and allow them to easily find the best deals.

“It’s pretty convenient that you can just click on the link in SPIRE and go to your book online,” Connors said. “I love Amazon generally, but linking it with UMass makes book-buying a few steps easier.”

As Connors mentioned, students can view their list of textbooks by logging into their SPIRE account. Once there, students can click on each textbook’s corresponding link and they will be brought immediately to that textbook’s page on the University’s Amazon page. The process eliminates unnecessary searching and any confusion concerning which edition to buy.

Not only does the arrangement allow students free one-day shipping to the campus area, but they have the option of picking up their orders at Amazon’s 3,000-square-foot Campus Center location, according to a news release. Additionally, Amazon Student and Amazon Prime members are eligible for free one-day pickup on other items when they are shipped to the Campus Center location. Students will also be able to pick up their orders from Amazon Lockers at residential areas on campus.

As everyone adjusts to the change, Blaguszewski said that UMass will be keeping students informed about how to order and pick up their textbooks.

In the future, students will be able to use their UCard debit accounts to pay for their Amazon orders, but that is not available presently. The arrangement would “create an additional convenience for students,” according to Blaguszewski.

Blaguszewski, who is optimistic about the new system, emphasized the importance of student feedback throughout the changes.

“We will be very engaged in the situation, just talking to students to see how it goes,” he said. “We’re looking forward to seeing how (the Amazon store) works and if anything needs to be improved, we’ll get right to it.”

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @shelby_ashline.