At the beginning of every semester, I wander over to Amherst Books and buy some of the course material I need for class. However, I then proceed to order the remainder of my books from Amazon. I only ever use Amherst Books for the required reading in the first few days of class, as the ones I order will not arrive in time. My commitment to Amazon is certainly not fueled by some desire to help out founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, but it is hard to pass up the significantly reduced prices (regardless of whether the books are new or used). I know that there is value in supporting a local bookstore and that these small businesses do not share Amazon’s ability to lower book prices. Nonetheless, I usually buy most of my expensive books online. I always feel some degree of guilt ordering so many books from Amazon, but I feel that I have little choice even though Amazon is putting independent bookstores out of business. According to an article in The Atlantic titled “Amazon Has Basically No Competition Among Online Booksellers,” 65 percent of new online book sales now go through Amazon. Some argue, that to compete with Amazon, publishing companies are less concerned with prioritizing good literature, and are being forced into the position of publishing whatever they think will sell well. Thinking about this and considering how I would feel if next time I walked by Amherst Books, I came up with this solution (albeit, a little far fetched in reality).
There appears to be a clear relationship between Hampshire College, UMASS, Amherst College and Amherst Books, given that all course materials can be found there. Amherst College has the power to expand upon this affiliation with Amherst Books. I propose that Amherst pay the difference between the price of new course books offered on Amazon and the price offered at Amherst Books. This would result in many more students using Amherst Books. Yes, this would mean some expenditure from the college, and maybe the expense of this idea would be sizeable, but Amherst is not low on funds. The benefit that this would provide students as well as the town would be significant and worth the cost. We students would be able to get our books faster and not have the issue of buying the wrong edition, and the town would have a bookstore that is able to effectively compete for the business of its student population.
I envision something similar to how large chains, such as Bed Bath & Beyond and Dick’s Sporting Goods, have price matching policies. Ultimately, whenever Amazon offers the assigned edition of a new book for cheaper, Amherst Books would match this reduced price and Amherst College would cover the difference. With this policy, the college would expand its impact in the community while also satisfying its students and faculty. I would rather buy my course books from Amherst Books than from Amazon, as would all of the Amherst students I have talked with, and if this proposal is enacted we will be able to do just that.