The routine of getting new textbooks is a process that most students dread. There is one book, however, that students look forward to getting at the beginning of each quarter. It is not required for any class; it does not weigh 20 pounds and not only is it free – it actually saves students money.
The Big Blue Bonus Book, more commonly known as the Blue Book, has provided Western and Whatcom Community College students with deals and savings throughout Bellingham for 25 years. While students are most likely familiar with the coupons and deals within the Blue Book, they may not be aware of the other services the Big Blue Bonus Book provides.
Scott Mihelich, who has published and managed the Blue Book since its inception in 1988, said that book was originally created to raise scholarship money for Western students. Each year, a portion of the advertising revenues gained through the sales of coupon ad-space to local businesses goes to the Associated Students not-for-profit. Currently, the revenues donated to the AS by the Blue Book funds thirteen $1,000 scholarships for students.
Along with funding scholarships, the Blue Book helps spread local business awareness to students throughout Whatcom County.
"It was designed to marry the business community with the students," Mihelich said. "We’ve got this large student population, many of which come from King County, who aren’t familiar with this area. That was a way for the Blue Book to get advertising and marketing messages to the students and give them an incentive to come in."
The Big Blue Bonus Book is distributed each quarter to students through the Western Bookstore. Bookstore General Manager Peg Godwin said that the coupons to the bookstore advertised in the Blue Book are some of the most successful and redeemed advertising vehicles. She added that the Blue Book has maintained its popularity with students throughout the years.
"We always have people asking for it before it’s ready and there are people who come in specifically looking for the Blue Book," Godwin said. "You rarely see people not take one."
In addition to the printed Blue Book, the Big Blue Bonus Book makes its coupons available through the internet at www.bigbluebonusbook.com and through mobile phone via app. Mihelich said that while the mobile and internet mediums are gaining popularity with students, a good amount of local businesses are apprehensive about mobile and online advertising.
"It’s a learning curve for a lot of my advertisers," Mihelich said. "Most of my customers are small businesses. They can get so engrained in what they do day-to-day that I think they get overburdened by everything like search engine optimization (SEO), Google, Facebook, mobile – they just don’t know what to do."
One of the biggest, long-running clients of the Blue Book is the Bagelry, located at 1319 Railroad Avenue. The Bagelry is only two years older than the Blue Book and has been offering coupons in the book since 1988. Ken Ryan, who owns the Bagelry with his wife, Marguerite, said that although the Blue Book is the most direct, effective way to reach students, he is reluctant to incorporate mobile and online advertising with the shop.
"I’m not so enthralled with how people can attack you on the Internet," Ryan said. "There’s no accountability and they can give a slam at you just because you didn’t do things exactly how someone wanted and then all of a sudden, you’re all over the Internet."
Mihelich said that since the economy turned in 2008, businesses have been advertising less in the Blue Book. While both students and businesses are spending less in a tough economy, the Blue Book continues to save students hundreds of dollars each year.
"I know I definitely use them," Western junior Kendall Kochmer said. "I actually bring a bunch home to each of my roommates and we like them quite a bit."