UMass selects eCampus to replace Amazon as online textbook provider

New service is slated to stay until 2024


(Collegian File Photo)

By Michael Connors, Assistant News Editor

Concluding a search to replace Amazon as the University of Massachusetts’ virtual textbook provider, the University has selected eCampus, an online bookstore, to oversee online retail and rental operations beginning this upcoming winter.

The service, which will be integrated with SPIRE similar to Amazon, will remain the University’s provider of textbooks until the summer of 2024. In addition to the online service, a staffed eCampus space will be set up in the Campus Center across the hall from the parking garage entrance and a pick-up point in Hampden Market in Southwest Residential Area will be open at the beginning and end of each semester.

“For students, I think the difference will be relatively minor in terms of price and accessibility in getting your textbooks,” Executive Director of Administration and Finance Operations Ruth Yanka said. “I don’t expect there to be too much of a difference in price because eCampus uses the same sort of market driven cost. So there’s no set charges, it’s all market driven.”

The contract between the University and eCampus has been in effect since August 1 of this year, however the first five months were determined to be a transition period so the University could switch from Amazon to eCampus.

Amazon had been the University’s online textbook provider since 2015, but decided to end their contract early as the company is leaving the textbook business. The Amazon pick-up point in the Campus Center will remain open.

“Amazon exercised its right to provide notice to us to end their contract early,” Yanka said. “But they were very accommodating.”

When searching for a new retailer, the University set up a selection committee comprised of representation from the faculty senate, the Student Government Association, the Graduate Student Senate, academic affairs, the W.E.B Du Bois library and the administration.

“We had seven responses to our RFP [request for proposal],” Yanka said. “The committee reviewed all of the responses we got to the RFP, selected the ones that they thought were above the others and started to interview them. Once it was narrowed down to eCampus, the decision was pretty unanimous.”

Faculty members on campus will be able to select both required and recommended course materials on the eCampus’ website and integrate them into SPIRE, so students enrolled in a class will be able to directly see which books are needed.

According to a press release, eCampus will also collaborate with UMass Amherst Libraries to make low-cost and free resources easy for faculty to find and for students to use.

“We’re thrilled to welcome UMass Amherst to the Virtual Bookstore program and applaud this institution who is making college affordability a priority for their students,” said eCampus President and CEO Matt Montgomery in the press release.

In addition, digital books bought through eCampus will be delivered through Valut eReader to be downloaded offline reading on most devices, such as Mac, Windows, Chromebook, iOS and Kindle Fire.

“We recognize the challenges students face with the rising costs of higher education and are dedicated to increasing textbook affordability through our new partnership with Virtual Bookstores,” Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Andrew Mangels said in the same press release.

Students will receive two-day shipping on orders placed in the eCampus store, although this excludes the marketplace where people buy and sell their own personal copies of books.

Michael Connors can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @mikepconnors.