As the academic year opens at WSU, two new options for faculty, staff and students who need to buy books are making their debuts, too.
The student-owned Bookie has spun off a satellite store — Bookie, Too! — in the Stadium Way Retail Center at the northwest edge of campus. It offers the same merchandise as the central-campus Bookie, but provides more parking and expanded shopping hours.
Crimson and Gray, owned by the Nebraska Book Company, has opened in southeast Pullman in the Wheatland Mall on Bishop Boulevard. It was started by former Bookie managers who left last spring after the Students Book Corporation board contracted with Barnes & Noble College Booksellers to manage the Bookie.
The former managers — Chuck Morrow, Keith McIvor and John O’Bryan — have touted Crimson and Gray’s ability to diversify merchandise in response to local customer needs, and they say they will sell books for less.
While the two WSU faculty members on the board acknowledge that people shop for the best price, they share a confidence that the better deal most often will be found at the Bookie. In addition, they said, Bookie profits go back to the students, so it’s a win for students both ways.
“With so many other stores, Barnes & Noble can buy in bulk, their costs are lower,” said board member Don Stem, professor of marketing. “They can sell an item cheaper, or sell it for the same price and give a higher return to the student owners.”
“Simply put, sales at the Bookie support returns that are under the full control of its student owners, while sales at other bookstores are retained by the company that owns the bookstore,” said board member Ron Mittelhammer, Regents professor in the School of Economic Sciences.
Both board members were eager to explain the decision to contract with Barnes & Noble and why it will benefit WSU.
“The main concern of the board of directors was the good of the students. None of the profits go to the university,” Stem said.
“Barnes & Noble could not only generate greater returns for the student owners of the Bookie, but could also contractually guarantee those greater levels while also maintaining the same discounted pricing of textbooks,” Mittelhammer said.
While the Bookie last year made about $875,000 for students, Barnes & Noble has guaranteed a minimum of $1 million per year.“And that’s if book sales drop,” Stem said. “If sales remain at last year’s level, returns to the students will be much more.
“The change to Barnes & Noble was no reflection on the superb work of the recent managers,” he said. But Barnes & Noble made an offer that was too good to pass up.
It was so good, in fact, that the board was skeptical. “So we made unannounced site visits to Barnes & Noble operations all over the country,” Mittelhammer said. “We also surveyed faculty and student leaders at other universities by phone to ensure that customer service was top rate and that employees of the bookstore operations were treated well.”
“I didn’t get any complaints from students, faculty or university administration,” Stem said.
Under Barnes & Noble, students will continue to get an 8 percent discount on textbooks at the Bookie and Bookie, Too! Departments will continue receiving a 10 percent discount, but only at the Bookie. In addition, faculty and staff will receive a 10 percent discount on all merchandise except textbooks at both stores.
Even larger student textbook discounts are the goal of the bookstore board, said Mittelhammer and Stem.
“One of the principal uses of bookstore returns is to lower the prices of textbooks through discounts,” Mittelhammer said. Stem said he would like to see students receiving as large a discount as possible: “My goal is to have the cheapest prices on textbooks in the country.
“If faculty buy from the Bookie, the profits will go back to the students,” he said.
“Faculty are encouraged to patronize the Bookie as a way of supporting its WSU student owners,” said Mittelhammer.