The textbook rental market has exploded over the past three years expanding from a handful of rental websites to over 15 sites that offer their own rental program. One of the leaders in this space is College Book Renter. The Textbook Guru took a second to sit down with the Chuck Jones, President of CA Jones Management, the company that owns College Book Renter, SE Books and a few other textbook-related companies.
With many of your early successes in the wireless broadband space what peaked you’re interested in the college textbook world prior to opening your first bookstore or acquisition’s of SE Books?
From an early age, my interest has been technology and anything that deals with technology. We have a company that specializes in search engine optimization and had a client in the textbook business. It peaked my interest so with South Eastern Book Company based in Murray, KY I researched the opportunity to purchase it and was able to get it done.
Many consider the college textbook world to be an “insiders” game of who you know and how long you have known them. As a new player how were you accepted and feel the community embraced you as a new owner of a major textbook wholesaler?
All of our business success is based on the ability to develop relationships with our customers and business partners. I enjoy that part of doing business and understand that it is essential to our success. The textbook business has been very open to us. We have worked hard to become a player in the wholesale market with our participation in NACS and CAMEX. We want to be a good partner to the bookstores that depend on us to deliver outstanding service on the textbook front and with Logitext, which is our POS system. Every customer that takes a look at Logitext tries to find a way to make a change in their bookstore.
Your second biggest move in the industry was your acquisition of College Book Renter in July of 2010. What excites you about the rental market?
Early in our ownership of South Eastern Book Company we recognized the fact that rental was becoming a large component of the college textbook business. After researching the concept we felt like it would be a great addition to our wholesale business. My background is based on technology so we used our expertise to grow College Book Renter at an astronomical rate. We are driving significant amounts of traffic to our site and are delivering first class customer service to those who visit our site. Our ability to source books at a low cost enables us to pass along the savings to the students.
Do you have any numbers on College Book Renter you would be willing to share?
I really don’t believe in boasting about what our numbers are in the rental business but I will say that we are growing at a rate that will make you double check the numbers! We are very pleased with the growth at this point.
Everyone in the industry wonders about the total affect of eTextbooks. When do you think they will start to make a bigger impact and what type of effect will they have on the physical book?
Obviously, they are going to be a part of the textbook discussion. We are watching the trade industry embrace the ebook platform so we are watching closely to see how it will affect the textbook business. Our research tells us a small percentage of students are embracing the change and that it will continue to grow.
With changes we see a swing back and forth from online to the bookstore and back. What do you feel is the long-term role of the college bookstore in the distribution of course materials to students? How do you think the college bookstore will need to change to remain relevant?
We think the college bookstore plays a significant role with the current college student. We are continuing to provide business concepts to our customers so they can adapt to the changes occurring in the industry. The opportunity to have your customers in the same city is an overwhelming advantage for college bookstores but they must be adaptable to the changes that students are requesting. The ability to react to change is the key component of success for college stores.
Thank you for your time.