On Nov. 22, 2013, the UC Davis Bookstore officially announced its partnership with Amazon online — the first partnership that Amazon has had with any university. Amazon approached UC Davis during Spring Quarter of 2013 to pitch the idea of this pilot program.
UC Davis will receive a little over 2 percent of most purchases by students that shop at Amazon with a UC Davis email account, or customers that shop at davis.amazon.com.
According to a Jan. 27 news release, students can sign up for a free six-month membership of Amazon Prime that would provide free two-day shipping. After the six months, students would pay $39 to continue their membership — 50 percent less than the regular price.
UC Davis Stores Director, Jason Lorgan, says that a portion of the funds will go to support a upcoming textbook scholarship program for students in 2014. The rest will fund other student programs and services.
“They recognized our store was the first university store in the nation to offer our students textbook price comparisons on our ucdavisstores.com textbook ordering page, resulting in UC Davis Stores being one of their larger textbook affiliates among U.S. colleges stores,” Lorgan said.
Lorgan believes the partnership will increase the current revenues for the UC Davis retail operation and that it will not be detrimental to in-store sales.
“The benefits the program provides to UC Davis students include a free six-month trial membership for Amazon Student Prime. Amazon Prime provides our students with free second-day air shipping on Amazon orders,” Lorgan said.
Lorgan explained in a news release that UC Davis has continuously set itself apart from other university bookstores. With the rapidly increasing cost of books and tuition, students are constantly looking for options to find better deals. Three years ago, the UC Davis bookstore began the price comparison for all books, a decision many were critical of at first. Now hundreds of stores have followed suit.
Public Relations Officer for Amazon Brittany Turner explained that the program so far has been a success. They have started an Amazon Brand Student Ambassador program.
“These students are big Amazon fans who want to help spread the word about Amazon’s offerings for students to their friends and peers,” Turner said.
Lead Brand Ambassador for the Amazon Student Ambassador Program, Ting Jung Lee, a fourth-year political science major, believes the program is really beneficial to the student community.
“As a student representative, I aid Amazon’s On-Campus Marketing Team to throw a series of fun and interactive events at UC Davis. During finals week of Fall Quarter, we had several ambassadors all over campus handing out free pizza and other goodies to fuel the students while they study,” Lee said.
She adds that she is excited about how prominent Amazon has become on the campus.
“It really goes to show what an influential university we’re becoming to have such a large brand come in and support us,” Lee said.
All other Brand Ambassadors declined to comment.
The UC Davis-Amazon collaboration is intended to be beneficial to students and the community at large who are already doing much of their shopping on Amazon. Without any additional costs, it will support the school and students.
ASUCD Controller Eric Evans, a third-year managerial economics major, believes that Lorgan’s team has been creative in finding new revenue despite the changing climate of the bookstore.
“I don’t see UC Davis changing our school-owned and school-operated model unless the bookstore becomes drastically unprofitable without a solid recovery in the cards — if that happens, the campus would probably look to an outside contractor to run the Stores to shed the risk,” Evans said.
He expands on why it is important the bookstore remain campus-operated — to give back to students via student employment.
“The importance of a campus-run bookstore lies less in who’s taking home the margin and more in who gets employed there. Our campus is a nonprofit entity, so any money we make at the Stores gets returned to the students in other ways … The university ownership and reporting structure ensure that when CRU is staffing the bookstore or the ARC, they turn first to student employees,” Evans said.
Teresa Torres, a second-year microbiology, genetics and Chicana/o studies major and bookstore employee says she has been seeing a significant increase in advertisement for the partnership. She believes this program is very beneficial because as is, students often struggle with book expenses and Amazon has offered deals on books and other things students need.
“Honestly, I don’t think there [has been] a big impact … so far I haven’t [seen] anything happen. I have seen them hand out discount coupons like $15 off a $50 purchase, but that is about it,” Torres said. “Then again there could be some type of benefit to the partnership since it is still happening. Hopefully, the prices of textbooks go down! Now that would be awesome.”