Now that the shelves of books in the main area have given way to merchandise and school supplies, Titles Bookstore is going through a rebranding process.
“We’ve really looked at our overall sales and tried to allocate space to where our returns, where our margins, where our sales are coming from to make the floor reflect those sales,” said Donna Shapiro, the store’s director, who’s been there 21 years.
The store’s name might even change from ‘Bookstore’ to something like ‘Campus Store.’
“A lot more books are going to e-books, with e-readers, Kobo e-readers, Kindles … and so we just don’t have the sales that we used to have,” she said.
Even ten years ago, when Titles looked more like a bookstore, trade book sales (not course-related books) only got to be as high as 12 per cent of their total revenue. Although that number has dropped significantly, special book orders will continue to be a big part of Titles’ business. They’ve also added online e-book sales and in-store, print-on-demand book sales.
A new service they are offering is a textbook rental system. Be it for a four-month term or a four-week period during final papers and exams, students can pay to rent course books from Titles, rather than buying them. The program launched this spring, and will be continuing into the fall semester for a larger volume of students.
With the store’s reconfiguration, textbooks for summer courses are being sold out of the back of the main store rather than the Tank now.
As strange as it may seem to have a campus bookstore with no books on the shelves, that may be where Titles is headed.
“If you look at a lot of the independent booksellers, they’re going out of business because they can’t manage to pay their rent with the products that they sell,” said Shapiro.
“Titles, too, must respond to changes in the industry”, she said.
“I don’t know what [the industry] is shifting towards, but it’s definitely challenging for those of us in the business to try to figure out how we keep up with that shift.”