As students cut costs by buying books from cheaper online retailers or by downloading e-textbooks, campus bookstores sell fewer and fewer textbooks. That’s triggering an identity crisis for one of the oldest institutions on campus and leading some college officials to ask: If textbooks go digital, does the campus even need a bookstore?
“Book sales are declining—they’re down tremendously this year,” says DeAnn Hazey, executive director of the National Association of College Stores Foundation. “The college stores have to find other ways and other categories” to make money, she says, “otherwise they won’t survive.”
So bookstores at many colleges are preparing for a bookless future with new services they hope will keep students coming: performance spaces for in-store concerts, multimedia stations for printing digital photos, and even dry cleaning. Most store managers I talked with hoped to drop the word “book” from the sign out front.