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CMU Bookstore pricing an open book thanks to new software

In recent years, the Colorado Mesa University Bookstore has seen an increase in competition from off-campus bookstores, online book services, student-to-student sales and direct sales from publishers. In an effort to continue providing the best value and service to students, the bookstore has begun working with a third-party vendor to improve pricing on course materials.

Verba Compare is a price-comparison website that lets students compare bookstore pricing with that of online vendors like Amazon and Chegg. Since implementing the program, store records indicate that 85 percent of titles purchased using the software were bought from the CMU Bookstore instead of competitors.

The program has helped the store’s image on campus, too. “There’s a perception we have the highest price and are out for every penny,” CMU Bookstore General Manager Tracy Brodrick told the CMU Board of Trustees. “This shows transparency.”

The fall semester served as a testing period for the Verba Compare program. A full marketing campaign kicks into high gear in time for the spring sales period.

This semester, the store also implemented Verba Compete, a sister product that provides pricing recommendations based on the market values of textbooks and store margins. Using this program, the bookstore can comparison shop for books, reducing inventory expenses. Verba Compete’s recommendations enable the bookstore to use dynamic pricing — passing the savings on to students.

The bookstore has sharpened its competitive edge by offering cheaper versions of books when available and stocking significantly more rentable titles than in previous years. So far this year, students have saved nearly $250,000 by renting or buying used books, compared to what they would have spent purchasing new books.

“We no longer have the luxury of a captive student market,” Brodrick said. “Our goal ultimately is to remain up-to-date and relevant.”

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