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Hampshire College teams up with Amherst Books for textbooks



@dustyc123
Tuesday, August 01, 2017

AMHERST — Hampshire College is partnering with neighboring Amherst Books to supply textbooks for students after the national education company Follett didn’t renew its contract to run the college's bookstore.

Hampshire students now will be able to purchase their textbooks at Amherst Books with their financial aid or student accounts. Hampshire has now assumed responsibility for the campus Hampstore, which will continue to sell school supplies, food, memorabilia and other products.

The college has offered those who worked at Hampstore under Follett jobs at the new, Hampshire-run store, which will reopen Aug. 9 after light renovations are completed.

“The sense around is that this is a benefit,” college spokesman John Courtmanche told the Gazette. “This allows us to manage the store, to make decisions that will benefit our students, and our faculty and our staff.”

Nat Herold, one of the owners of Amherst Books, said the partnership has long been in the works. He said many professors from Hampshire, Amherst College and the University of Massachusetts already direct their students to purchase textbooks at Amherst Books, and that this partnership will formalize that process with Hampshire.

A Hampshire graduate who also taught literature and composition at the college, Herold said Hampshire is not charging Amherst Books to let students use their “One Card” to make purchases there.

“That’s a difference, and that would be a great model for independent bookstores in college towns as well,” he said.

Many other colleges, however, continue to use large corporations to manage their bookstores or facilitate textbook purchases. Smith College has a contract with Follett to run its bookstore, and UMass Amherst switched from Follett to a partnership with Amazon.com to supply students books.

Amherst, Herold recalled, used to be a destination for bibliophiles coming from places like Cambridge. Now, as online book sales continue to kill off brick-and-mortar shops, Amherst Books stands alone in a downtown that used to be filled with independent bookstores.

Although he’s excited about the new partnership, Herold had critical words for professors who he says send their students to Amherst Books to buy textbooks, but don’t ever come in themselves to buy anything. In-person sales, he said, are what keeps the business afloat, and with fewer and fewer people stopping by to purchase books, the financial situation become more untenable.

“Hopefully, it’ll bring us more income,” he said of the partnership with Hampshire. “We’re hanging on for dear life.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.