Regents Retain Textbook Rental Program, Award Contract for Bookstore Operation

by News Bureau on Thursday, Apr. 11, 2013

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., April 11, 2013 – The Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents yesterday retained the University’s long-standing tradition of textbook rental while positioning the University for the future. The Board also awarded a contract for the operation of the University bookstore to Follett Higher Education Group for the period beginning July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014, with four optional one-year renewal periods.

“The textbook industry continues to evolve, and Southeast cannot ignore the changes that are occurring,” said Kathy Mangels, vice president for finance and administration. “Students in elementary and high schools are now using tablets and other digital devices in the classroom and will expect the same digital experience when they enter college.”

Mangels said Southeast has operated a textbook rental program since 1915. In recent years, Southeast began using electronic textbooks or course materials in addition to traditional print textbooks. Students purchase an access code through the bookstore, which is activated by the publisher. For example, ALEKS electronic course materials are used in Southeast’s Math 101 and 102 courses, and more than 2,000 codes for these courses were sold in 2012-2013.   Electronic textbooks or course materials requiring a code are utilized in approximately 30 courses currently, and in academic year 2012-2013, more than 8,700 codes in total were sold to Southeast students, she said.

In order to investigate other models for providing faculty and students with access to electronic course materials, Mangels said a request for proposals was issued in November 2012 for operation of a textbook rental and bookstore operation. After review of the initial proposals, qualifications and experience of the bidders, Follett Higher Education Group and Barnes & Noble College were invited to campus. Each vendor conducted open forums with the campus community and met with academic and technology leaders on campus.

An online survey was made available to the entire campus community to provide feedback not only on the vendor proposals but on the factors most important to constituents related to course materials. “The most important factor for respondents related to textbooks and a retail college store was price,” said Mangels. “Possible advantages to outsourcing identified by respondents were more options related to e-books, access to digital materials and technology, better variety of products, and improvements to the physical facility and organization of the store. The overwhelming disadvantage identified by respondents was potential price increases and the loss of a rental option completely.”

Based on a review of the options submitted by both vendors, the Board of Regents approved Follett’s proposal to operate the bookstore with the University maintaining operation of the textbook rental program. The university would receive annual commissions based on a percentage of bookstore sales, in addition to contributions for bad debt and scholarships, said Mangels.  Follett would also provide $490,000 in one time dollars for a renovation of the bookstore, including installation of a new point-of-sale system. 

“Because all electronic course materials are sold through the bookstore, this option allows the University to partner with a leader in the higher education textbook industry who can provide expertise and access to changing technology while the University maintains the low cost rental program for print materials,” said Mangels. Follett has 140 years of experience in the campus bookstore industry and has developed products and partnerships that offer opportunities for campus to access and integrate electronic course materials with their learning management systems. 

Mangels indicated Follett will continue the bookstore’s First Friday discount program, and students will still be able to charge purchases to their University accounts. Follett will also offer employment opportunities to the current bookstore employees. The company’s national purchasing power will offer opportunities for expanding bookstore inventory, including enhanced technology options.

“The University extends its deepest appreciation to the current bookstore staff for their outstanding service over the years to students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community,” said Mangels. “Change often requires difficult decisions, and that is certainly the case in this situation.”