Textbook Butler, a new way for students to order textbooks from the book store on campus, will be implemented on campus in the fall semester.
Darren Campbell, chief executive officer of Tree of Life Bookstores, along with Student Senate, bookstore faculty and Julie Hendryx, interim business and finance vice president, met April 24 to discuss the book model changes next year.
Although the administration has prepared for the changes, former student body president Daniel Binkoski and former vice president Jason Wright (Binkoski and Wright handed power over to the 2013-14 student body president, Luke McConnell, on May 8) said the changes are not beneficial to the student body.
“I think in its current form, as presented in senate, it’s not a viable option,” Binkoski said. “It’s not nearly as flexible as it needs to be.”
The new bookstore model adds a new opt in and opt out feature that will ensure books are ordered and delivered to students before classes begin. Students who opt in must buy all of their textbooks, not just some, from the bookstore.
“I think Textbook Butler is a good win-win for all three sides,” Hendryx said. “For the faculty, it stresses the importance that students have their textbooks. For students, it gives them a good option for those who want to get their textbooks from the bookstore, and for the bookstore it solves the macro-problem of the business model.”
However, Wright said he disagrees with the Textbook Butler program.
“Personally, I don’t think he’s [Campbell] very attentive to students’ needs,” Wright said. “I don’t think he understands what students want from the bookstore. It’s the students that are making the sacrifice on this … there’s three parties you need to make happy, and the students got left out on this one, and they are getting the worse end of this.”
Textbook Butler will be linked on the Huntington portal website, where students have the option to opt out per-semester.
The new book model automatically opts all students in on the system, but students may go to the portal and choose to opt out. If a student does not opt out, he or she will have to get every book for all of their classes through the bookstore. The books will be in their dorm room when they arrive at the university in August.
“They are losing the option of buying from the bookstore only the books that they want,” Hendryx said. “That’s probably a con for students. They can’t just pick and choose what books they want from the bookstore anymore.”
Although most students will have the option to opt out, Student Senate and administrators are still debating on whether freshmen will get that decision at all. Freshmen may be required to opt in the first semester, but that matter has yet to be decided.
“Either all students are opted in automatically, and they can opt out if they want, freshmen included, or make all of them [freshmen] do that for the first semester,” Binkoski said, “which I don’t think is the right thing to do at all. This hasn’t been decided yet.”
Binkoski said the bookstore will still stock some books in limited supply, but the plan is to completely phase that out within a few years. He said this is not in the best interest of the students, but it is being pursued anyways.
Wright said he doesn’t think automatically opting students in is the right decision.
“Forcing students into it is not the way to do it,” he said.
Hendryx said she would take that into consideration.
Although Student Senate was informed about Textbook Butler, Binkoski and Wright said they disliked the timeliness of their inclusion.
“I was made aware of it a month ago,” Binkoski said. “I had a meeting with Julie Hendryx for 30 minutes to find out what it was, and at that point they were at the place where they were like ‘this is Textbook Butler, we’re probably going with it.’”
Wright said Student Senate was not properly informed of the changing model.
“On this decision, it never went to students before it was already decided,” he said.
Hendryx said they did not intentionally not inform them about the changing book store policies.
“I think I looked at it from a standpoint that ‘it’s a broken business model’ that had to change,” she said. “I would appreciate some of their perspectives on how to make it work, but it was not my intention to not include Senate.”
Patrick Eckhardt, director of marketing for Tree of Life Bookstores, said the new bookstore model offers price structures adaptive to the market. Rental prices, he said, are competitive with used book prices on Amazon.com.
With the new model, the bookstore “can be more aggressive in the market,” Eckhardt said. “Typically, the price structure will be more adaptive to the market. It’s better for us, it’s better for you.”
Wright, however, said Textbook Butler isn’t competitive in the market.
“I don’t get where he [Eckhardt] gets that idea from,” he said. “His rental prices were comparable to the cheapest buying prices on Amazon. You can’t compare rental prices to used book prices.”
Forty-eight percent of students buy or rent from the bookstore, according to Hendryx’s data. Thirty-six percent of the total textbook sales are through the bookstore website. The bookstore sold $150,000 in textbooks August 2012, and the sales for the whole semester were $167,000.
“The bookstore returned $148,000 that semester,” said Hendryx. “Prior to the fall of 2012, one major book distributor for Tree of Life told them they would not sell books to Tree of Life if they continued to have such high returns.”
Binkoski said he has had frustrations with the bookstore in the past and hopes the situation will be resolved soon.
“In my experience, the bookstore is not competitive at all,” he said. “They say … they will lower prices, but they didn’t give any numbers. They are actually not that competitive with online markets.”
UPDATE: Binkoski said May 9 that it had been decided freshmen will not have to opt in and will be given the opt out option like other students.