Recently, it’s been rumored that Keene State College’s bookstore will be leased to a new vendor, Barnes & Noble. It hasn’t been confirmed by Interim Vice President of Finance and Planning Daniel Petree, but staff and student employees shared their concerns.
Earlier this year, every student received an email relaying that Keene’s bookstore is undergoing financial complications. Their budget was cut and employees had to be let go.
Unfortunately, nothing much can be said by the committee put in charge of restructuring and refinancing the bookstore because no contract has been signed as of yet.
However, KSC bookstore Manager Francis Brush gave insight on the s ituation and explained why leasing is seen as KSC’s best possible option.
Essentially, Bush explained that the overhead cost of providing textbooks to students is laborious and costly. He said,, “My view of the industry is that stores have a much higher overhead. Consequently, they have to charge a bigger premium and a bigger markup than online operations.”
He explained that online, there is a completely automated system where the product can meet the “end user” in a matter of hours. It’s timely and extremely cost effective — even for students. By operating this way, on average, textbooks can be sold at lower prices.
Times are changing
Ultimately, the KSC bookstore cannot compete with popular online providers, such as Amazon and Chegg. KSC first-year Sabrina Costa said she saved nearly $200 on books for this past semester. “I always compare the book price at the store with the prices on Amazon. My management textbook was $280 from the KSC store and only $100 on Amazon.”
The previous advantage to buying textbooks at the KSC bookstore was getting the instructors preferred materials in course packs, which are comprised of sources that professors pick out themselves and make into a book that is usually much lower in cost.
It’s a preferred option compared to buying a lengthy textbook, where the class only gets through a few of the chapters in a semester. Course packs offer a more focused look at the material.
However, putting together these packages is more work on the professor’s behalf. In Francis Bush’s opinion, “Not enough of them take advantage — it’s a shame because now, more comes out of the student’s pocket.” It is expected that the KSC bookstore will stock fewer books.
If this was to happen, then potentially, students can go online through the web store and buy off the Barnes & Noble website.
Similarly, the University of Massachusetts outsourced their entire operation to Amazon. There, students order through a proxy site, where it’s then quickly shipped to a pick-up site on campus. “I think Barnes & Noble will probably do that here. I don’t see how they can make a profit any other way,” Bush said.
KSC bookstore student employee Ben Lemay said he hasn’t been informed on any significant changes that will be taking place, but there is reason to be cautious about job security.
Since the bookstore is looking for ways to outsource and cut labor, long-time employees might lose their jobs. “I have another job working upstairs [in the Young Student Center] — for the students it isn’t so hard…but the adult staff working here must be worried,” he said.
Now that the employee union has stepped up and taken a stance on the matter, it furthers delays any decision making.
An official for the employee union Pat Halloran admitted she could not speak to the media on the matter of job loss and their process in negotiating.
How do the student’s feel?
KSC sophomore Joshua Paquette shared his excitement and said, “I like the idea, as long as I can pay less for my books.”
KSC first-year Nicole Goulet shared a similar point of view. “I’m just looking for the better price,” she said.
Laura Seraichick, chief information officer for Keene’s Information Technology Group, chairs the committee in charge of restructuring and said a decision is most likely going to be made sometime in January.
Katie Jensen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org