A little over thirty years ago, my life—and the lives of tens of millions of Americans—was changed in immeasurable ways by the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Coming of age in a world where ADA was the law, I was free to imagine and pursue opportunities that were previously impossible for people with disabilities, including visually impaired people like me.
What do you get when you combine a declining retail footprint, reduced retail margin on thousands of materials, and lower prices? Would you believe the answer is more affordable textbooks and a thriving course materials business? That’s exactly what Kurt Kaiser and the team at the Colorado State University (CSU) Bookstore are experiencing. Their work to save students over $6 million in 2018 has captured lots of attention, including The Rocky Mountain Collegian and CTV 11, the CSU campus TV network.
I recently sat down with Kurt Kaiser, textbook manager at CSU, to talk about his store’s work to improve affordability and drive day-one access to learning materials.
Kimberly Holland and her team at Kennesaw State University Bookstore are on a mission to support student learning. If you’re surprised a campus store’s primary goal is student success, you may be shocked to learn that campus stores across the country are leading the charge to improve course materials affordability and access. In fact, at KSU, the store team has spent nearly six years working to bring to life a program that offers affordable, day-one access to course materials, all to benefit students.
After the spring back-to-school rush, our friends in the independent campus store industry come together for two key conferences, the Independent Collegiate Bookstore Association annual meeting (ICBA) and the National Association of College Stores Campus Market Expo (CAMEX). At these conferences, store leaders and staff learn from industry thought leaders, and each other, and discover new tools to help their stores contribute to the mission of their institutions.
While there’s plenty of cool “front of the store” merchandise on display at ICBA and CAMEX--one can acquire a collegiate branded spatula, or team spirit cowboy boots--the store leaders we work with are focused on something more critical than game-day attire. For the campus store folks focused on course materials, the mission is improving affordability and student outcomes. Increasingly, college stores are the driving force behind lowering the costs of course materials. While their per-unit margins may be shrinking, campus stores are stronger and more valuable to their institutions than ever before.
Remember the fun of going to the library and picking out books when you were a kid, or spending a relaxing afternoon browsing your favorite bookstore? I don’t. I’ve been legally blind since birth; my vision cannot be corrected with glasses, contacts, or surgery. As much as I loved printed books, they never really loved me back. Trips to the bookstore and library involved finding the large print section, full of books about aging and a plethora of Danielle Steele novels….and not much else.
Until the advent of eBooks, reading for pleasure was tricky, at best. Reading for school was downright miserable. Sometimes large print textbooks were available, but often they were not. I’d exhaust my eyes and do my best to complete my reading assignments and homework, but learning from print books was a painful, and oftentimes, embarrassing experience. I relied on bulky CCTV magnifiers in library basements and an unhealthy amount of eyestrain to make it through high school and college. Then everything changed.