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Online-only college bookstores: good or bad?

Wright State University Bookstore | Photo by Natalie Cunningham | The Wright State Guardian

Wright State University Bookstore | Photo by Natalie Cunningham | The Wright State Guardian

Sinclair Community College recently made the decision to stop selling textbooks in its bookstore. Soon it will sell them in an online-only format.

According to the Sinclair College eCampus webpage, new and used textbooks can still be purchased in-store through the spring semester.

There are various different methods of purchasing textbooks, whether it be for ease of access or lowered prices. Websites such as Amazon and Chegg have invited the concept of purchasing books online.

Their brick and mortar location will still be open alternatively as a ‘campus store’ where they will sell various supplies and Sinclair College-themed merchandise, according to the Sinclair College eCampus webpage.

Clark State Community College implemented this practice in 2014, according to Clark State’s webpage.

How do students feel about an online store?

Lexi Blair is a senior at WSU studying adolescence to young adult education with a concentration in language arts. She only used WSU’s bookstore during her freshman year of college.

“I buy my textbooks off of Chegg or I rent from Amazon. I prefer online because the prices are much more reasonable,” said Blair. “I think our bookstore can be very expensive. I wouldn’t be against an online-only bookstore. It may lower the costs.

Tionna Clyburn holds an associates degree from Sinclair in music with a focus on piano performance and music theory education.

Fall 2019 was her first semester at WSU, where she transferred as a junior and is now pursuing a media studies major.

“Having a physical bookstore gives students a chance to look a potential textbook in person, and judge maybe if they want an e-book instead of a physical copy, or if it’s an optional book, they can see if they really need/want it or not,” said Clyburn.

Students may rely on purchasing miscellaneous school supplies from the bookstore, such as nursing and culinary students who need department uniforms, therefore complicating the process, according to Clyburn.

“By removing the bookstore from the campus, we are actually doing a disservice to the students. This was also a place to just get general school supplies for a lot of people,” said Clyburn. “Many students I’ve spoken with there in the last month have told me they are not sure how they will go through the semester without the bookstore there for any last-minute, sporadic things that come up. There’s so much to be said, but in short, it may not be the best decision made.”

Clyburn buys majority of her books for her WSU courses from the physical bookstore but would frequent Amazon as well as the bookstore at Sinclair due to specialized requirements.

What does the WSU Bookstore future hold

“All institutions are unique, and there are many factors to consider when choosing a bookstore format that works for a particular campus. Nearly 30 years ago, Wright State University selected Barnes & Noble College to manage the operations of its campus bookstore,” said Jennifer Gebhart, general manager of WSU’s Barnes and Noble.

Students have the choice of purchasing their books online or in the physical bookstore location for ease of convenience.

“We have been proud to operate both a physical location on campus as well as an e-commerce site where students can purchase their course materials as well as apparel, gifts and more. This is a format that has worked well for the Wright State campus community. We continue to communicate frequently with the school administration to ensure we are best serving the needs of students and faculty, and any changes to our store operations would be at the discretion of the administration,” said Gebhart.