- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Last semester, Zach Jordan spent about $400 renting textbooks for his classes at Purdue University.

This semester, the freshman mechanical engineering major decided to rent his books from Amazon and pick them up at the Web giant’s first staffed pickup and drop-off location, which formally opened Tuesday at Krach Leadership Center at Purdue.

“It’s made my experience a lot cheaper. It’s made the financial burden significantly less expensive. Last semester, I spent well over $400 on books, and this semester I didn’t spend more than $40 on one book. My total was around $150,” Jordan told the Journal & Courier (http://on.jconline.com/1KrpTgF ) after picking up a package Tuesday. “It was amazing.”

The partnership that spurred Amazon@Purdue, where students can pick up course materials with free next-day shipping, was made with college students like Jordan, who value affordability and convenience, in mind, said Ripley MacDonald, Amazon’s director of student programs. With its emphasis on cutting costs for students, Purdue was a logical choice for the first location.

“It was really the focus that President (Mitch) Daniels had on students and affordability - that was what initially connected us together,” MacDonald said. “Purdue is a tech school that has a large student body all on one campus, so that plays well for a location like this where students can pick up their packages.”

Data gathered during the location’s unofficial launch - a soft opening that began earlier this semester - indicate students and staff have saved more than anticipated, Daniels said after a ribbon cutting outside the new storefront.

“Our estimate had been 35 percent (savings) on textbooks. So far, it looks to be north of 40 percent,” Daniels said. “But we’ll track that over time, and I’ve talked to a lot of students who both love the convenience of it and the high-tech nature of it.”

Textbooks aren’t the only items available for pickup. Those with an Amazon Prime membership, which comes at half the cost to college students, can pick up any other items they need with free next-day shipping.

“I’ve been getting cleaning stuff. Instead of driving all the way to Wal-Mart, I just get it here when I’m at work and pick it up when I leave,” said Eric Templin, a store employee and a senior computer science major with a software engineering position already lined up at Amazon once he graduates. “It’s really awesome (and) pretty convenient, honestly.”

Some popular items among students tend to be textbooks, school supplies, video games, consumer electronics and electronic accessories, said Paul Ryder, Amazon’s vice president of media and student programs.

“We know there’s millions of things available just in our Indiana warehouses, let alone warehouses all across the country,” Ryder said. “Once we see what students are buying, we can start to make sure we have all the right things they’re most interested in at the Indiana warehouses, so they’re here super-fast.”

Ryder said Amazon will continue to track data and trends as information becomes available and will consider expanding similar services to other universities.

Contracts at two other schools - the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and University of California-Davis - are in the works, while a location at Purdue Memorial Union is slated to open in May, MacDonald said.

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Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com

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