Blackwell’s has reported a major boost this year from universities spending money on books for their students.
The development comes as new research has shown that more students are expecting course materials to be provided in return for higher university fees. The research, carried out by digital textbook lending company CourseSmart and the National Union of Students (NUS), found 81% of UK university students wanted textbooks included in their university fees, which have risen to as much as £9,000 a year for students beginning this academic year.
Blackwell’s said there are signs that universities have already begun listening to these demands, which is having a positive affect on its business. Kate Stilborn, Blackwell’s head of operations and marketing, said: “That is definitely being reflected in our business—we have seen huge growth in bursary sales this year, so it is absolutely true that more universities are paying for more course materials.”
The survey of 1,652 students also found that a third owned tablet e-book readers, and 77% predominantly used their online device for academic purposes. Blackwell’s is already preparing for the shift in students’ study habits towards digital, and is currently in the process of fitting all its stores out with wi-fi so customers can download e-books from its e-book rental partner CourseSmart or e-book sales partner company Nook. “What we want is to get customers to come in and want to use their devices in our stores to use, and to buy, e-books,” Stilborn said.
Rachel Wenstone, vice-president of higher education for the NUS, called for a change in how courses are taught in order “to meet the needs of the 21st-century student.” She said: “Technology provides a good, way of learning and this must be balanced against the need for high-quality course content and traditional delivery to provide a high-quality learning experience.”