Twenty years after Amazon began prying the book market away from brick-and-mortar stores, the digital market colossus has sealed a deal to expand its Amazon Campus program to its third campus, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and offer next-day textbook delivery through partner websites. Amazon Student Prime members will get unlimited next-day delivery, and students can pick up deliveries from code lockers or employees at the distribution centers.
The deal follows a more limited partnership with University of California, Davis, back in January 2014 and a similar deal with Purdue University last August. On paper, the program seems like a win-win all around: Annually, each student would save an estimated $150 at Purdue and up to $380 at the University of Massachusetts, and the two schools will get a 0.5% to 2.5% cut, which will bring in $1.45 million for the University of Massachusetts Amherst over three years and $1.7 million for Purdue over four years, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon won out against other bids to supply the schools with course materials thanks to its big corporate benefits. For Purdue, it was Amazon’s on-campus distribution center and textbook repurchasing model; for the University of Massachusetts Amherst, it was Amazon’s ability to set its own book prices and push back against publishing conglomerates, according to documents acquired by The Wall Street Journal.
Amazon is continuing the battle it started in the 1990s. The textbook annex that Amazon is replacing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is managed by Follett Corp, which runs about 900 college bookstores. The Follett annex will stay open to sell non-textbook amenities and university gear.
This move is not just a chance for Amazon to slice into the $10.3 billion spent at college bookstores annually. The Student Prime membership might be half the normal Prime price at $49 annually, but Prime membership holders spent three times the amount that non-Prime Amazon shoppers did last year. With more student Prime memberships, Amazon is getting exactly what it wants: getting ‘em young and training ‘em right.
It’s clear that this experiment is a pilot program for Amazon to gain footholds on college campuses–both to secure better service and woo new student customers. With brick-and-mortar distribution centers, Amazon establishes more hubs to deliver anything and everything.