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The New York Times had a story the other day about how Amazon is partnering with a number of universities, taking over their campus bookstores and turning them into something ... different.

An excerpt: "This summer, Stony Brook, part of the State University of New York, announced a partnership with the online retailer Amazon, now the university’s official book retailer. Students can purchase texts through a Stony Brook-specific Amazon page and have them delivered to campus. Eventually, the story says, there will be an Amazon pickup location on campus as well.

"In the campus store where the textbooks used to be, there are now adult coloring books, racks of university-branded polos and windbreakers and three narrow bookshelves displaying assorted novels. The rest of the store is a vibrant collage of spirit wear and school supplies: backpacks and baseball caps; pompom hats and striped scarves; notebooks and correction fluid. There will soon be a Starbucks ... Stony Brook, like other universities working in partnership with Amazon, receives a percentage of the sales taking place on the Amazon site, said Mark Pace, the chief contracts administrator for the university’s Faculty Student Association."

The story notes that "partnerships with online vendors have potential downsides, Bob Walton, chief executive of the National Association of College Stores, said. Using any remote supplier means students may acquire the wrong books; students on financial aid must figure out how to order books and get reimbursement passes. The buyback system is thrown off. 'If they save five bucks and have a miserable week because they can’t even get the damn thing, what good is that?' he said. 'It’s not that people can’t figure these things out, it’s just a hassle'."
KC's View:
Several things about this story...

First, it is yet another indication of Amazon's ecosystem approach to business. It wants to be everywhere and available to everyone. At some level, universities are seeing the Amazon approach as being more appealing and relevant to students and, probably more importantly, more profitable to the academic institution. (This is important, I think, because it is hard to get by when students are only paying a quarter-million dollars for a four-year college education.)

Second, I have to point out that my daughter, who just graduated as an honors student with a BA in Criminal Justice (and is still looking for a job, in case anyone out there is hiring whip-smart young women in this area), used to order all her books from Amazon anyway. It didn't actually matter what was being sold in the campus bookstore, which ended up being abetter source of sweatshirts than textbooks.

But ... this all said, I have to say that I worry a little bit about campus bookstores that think it is more important to stock adult coloring books rather than the textbooks that actually get used in classrooms. I don't want to be that grumpy old guy, but somehow this feels like maybe the emphasis is being put on the wrong stuff.