While an Amazon drone dropping off packages on the doorstep may be a few years off, the company's local customers will have a new way to receive their purchases. The Illini Union Bookstore on the University of Illinois campus has partnered with Amazon to create the first pickup location for Amazon products in Illinois.
The staffed location allows customers to have their purchases delivered to the store instead of shipped to their residences. It also provides same-day pickup on select items for Amazon Prime members if they place orders by noon and free one-day pickup for orders placed by 10 p.m.
Amazon Prime members can get same-day pickup on 3 million items and free two-day shipping on more than 30 million items, according to a company statement. Students can sign up for Amazon Prime membership at a discounted price. They get a six-month free trial followed by a fee of $49, which is half the normal Prime price, it said.
The Amazon@Illinois location is scheduled to open by the end of October. The bookstore at 809 S. Wright St., C, is operating normally while Amazon builds its store by the checkout station on the first floor.
Tod Petrie, director of the Illini Union Bookstore, said the pickup location is a faster and cheaper option for making returns and receiving packages. He added that it also takes away the worry that a package might be stolen or damaged after it arrives.
"For the students, it's a win-win," he said. "They are ordering from Amazon already, so this will just make it easier."
Purdue also offers the service, the only other Big Ten school to do so. Petrie said that inspired him to see if something similar was possible at Illinois.
Companies like Amazon are normally the competition of bookstores, Petrie said, so the idea of a partnership was quite a shock at first. But ultimately, he said, it just made sense. The company is already on campus delivering packages so they might as well create a partnership, he said.
"There is something to be said about having a brick-and-mortar store, as well as the online," he said.
The store and its services are not restricted to UI students, faculty, staff and Amazon Prime members; they will just receive additional discounts.
Petrie said he hopes the partnership will bring more foot traffic by people who wouldn't visit otherwise, like the addition of the Starbucks did.
Amazon reached an agreement similar to the one the bookstore has with Starbucks and PNC Bank, which also operate in the bookstore. Amazon will operate as a separate entity. The company is building its own space, will pay rent and have its own employees.
But ultimately, he said, the focus is on the students and making sure they have the resources they need. All profits from the bookstore go to the Illini Union and the services it provides.
Having more textbook providers benefits students and gives them more choices. But students take risks with online shopping because the product may not be the advertised edition or condition when it arrives, something the staffed Amazon location will help address, Petrie said.
"It's different, but we have to adjust, we have to change," he said. "We have to evolve with the students."
One student, Audrey Cochran, UI graduate student in the School of Social Work, said she rarely buys textbooks from Amazon for a few reasons.
For some classes, like an advanced composition class she took, she needed nine books so Amazon was the perfect option. But for other classes, she wants to make sure she gets the exact book she needs, and she doesn't always know what she'll end up with from Amazon.
So, Cochran said, she checks all the prices on her books, including the Illini Union Bookstore, Amazon, the rental service Chegg and the other bookstore on campus, T.I.S.
"I do a lot of mixing to find the best deals and sometimes that's Amazon and sometimes that's not," she said. "If it's only a few bucks difference, I'll just get it from the store."
"I don't always trust my apartment building," she added, "but I would order it if I knew it was going somewhere safe."