Bookstore brings bargains to students

The UTD bookstore is making efforts to lower the costs of textbooks and other resources by implementing Discover, a program designed to simplify the process of accessing and buying textbooks. Photo by Ambarina Hasta | Mercury Staff.

The UTD bookstore will adopt a new program to simplify the process of shopping for and using textbooks.

Follett, the university’s bookstore partner, plans to use a new optimization tool known as Discover to make accessing textbooks a more seamless experience for both professors and students. Discover will launch in the spring of 2019 and will expand to its full capacity later in the summer.

Healthcare studies sophomore Aasir Noorali said the process of buying books has become increasingly cumbersome in recent years.

 “I feel as though there is a huge inconsistency between Blackboard and UTD Coursebook that just confuses me and leaves me having to stress about where to find my books, what books I need to buy and how much I need to pay for books,” Noorali said.

Manager Rawn Johnson said the decision to adopt Discover was a much-needed addition to the bookstore. He said the decision will improve user experience and help students and the bookstore better prepare for the upcoming semester.

“What Discover will do is streamline the process and hopefully make the adoption a lot more intuitive and user-friendly than anything we’re doing now,” Johnson said. “This is going to be a one-click access to all of your classes on one page and what or what not those course materials are.”

The Discover workflow comprises four main components. The first will allow professors to browse and adopt more than textbooks. Alternatives such as open education resources will allow for course materials such as online textbooks to be offered to students at much lower prices. In addition, having professors choose their materials for the next semester in advance will allow for the university to negotiate prices with publishers and accurately measure the sizes of orders for course materials, allowing the bookstore to gauge the number of students willing to sell back textbooks that could be sold as used books for the following semesters. 

“We have had some huge wins. We’ve brought the calculus book down by more than $50, we’ve brought the (general) chemistry books down by more than $150,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of options open to us when we have that information in time.”

Students will have access to a “view and shop” module, which will be in place for the spring. This will allow students to view all required materials for all their courses in one area within Blackboard and be able to immediately view prices and purchase their materials while on that page. Additionally, in the future, Discover will allow integrations with savings programs so students can access discounts and other sales. Director of Food and Retail Carrie Chutes said the adoption of Discover was to help alleviate textbook-related issues the university community as a whole faced.

“It’s giving students the heads up right away, where we weren’t able to do before, for what they need to budget for their classes for the next semester,” Chutes said. “As a university, we don’t receive a commission on textbook sales. There is no hidden initiative from us — it’s simply to provide the best value to our students.”

The final component of Discover allows students to open most online services such as homework or course materials that require access codes directly within Blackboard, diminishing the need for students to go to specific publisher sites to be able to redeem and access their coursework.

Noorali said the implementation of Discover will be an important tool to use in future semesters. 

“If this initiative goes as planned, then it will be a huge conduit of success for UTD students and the UTD bookstore,” Noorali said. “It will allow me to shop for books stress-free and offer me a unified place where I can do all my school work.”

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