Blackboard Software Will Incorporate Virtual College Bookstore

The learning-management behemoth Blackboard is getting into the virtual-campus-bookstore business.

This semester the company is testing a system in which a faculty member can visit the new online bookstore to search for and select materials for her course—including new, used, or rental books, e-books, open-source content, material the faculty member wrote herself, and more. When a student visits the bookstore, he’ll find the course materials for all his classes waiting in an online shopping cart for checkout.

Katie Blot, Blackboard’s senior vice president for education services, said in an interview that the company was working with a fulfillment house, MBS Direct, to make sure the course materials are priced competitively. The fulfillment company, she said, could provide almost any course materials “in whatever format they’re available in the marketplace.”

The advantage for students, she said, is that buying course materials will be easy and convenient, and there will be no confusion over which edition or version of a particular work the faculty member wants students to use.

For faculty members, she said, the service offers not only convenience but also the opportunity to see which students in a course purchased what materials. A report released on Monday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said that 65 percent of college students in a recent survey declared that they had not bought all the textbooks recommended for their courses because of the books’ cost.

Blackboard will test the bookstore service on about a dozen campuses this spring, Ms. Blot said, and plans to make it available more widely this summer.

Return to Top