Possible buyers made presentations Thursday, Feb. 13, to convince the Southern Oregon University Request for Proposals Committee that they are the best company to buy the bookstore. Barnes & Noble Inc. and Follett both made presentations in the Meese Meeting Room in Hannon Library, each being about thirty minutes long, followed by a half hour of answering questions.
The Request for Proposals Committee is considering the two companies. Once they announce the chosen buyer, there will be seven days for students, staff and faculty to make comments or complaints to the committee.
Both companies focused on major ideas to what they could bring to the bookstore. Affordable books and merchandise for students was one of the biggest points. According to Barnes & Noble, they have a growing digital textbook selection, and most of them cost about 60% of the physical copy.
Follett, having reviewed the bookstore’s methods and records, say that the plan they wish to initiate would allow “an additional $520,000 annually in used and rental savings to SOU students.”
Another point that both companies stressed was a store with great customer service round-the-clock service. “Will we always be the cheapest? No, but we want to be the students’ first choice,” said Russell Markman, Vice President of Campus Relations at Barnes & Noble College Booksellers.
Follett wants to make the bookstore a one stop shopping area. Both groups plan to do this by having a training period for all staff, and then bettering after-hours accessibility digitally.
Technology was their other major point. Whether it is digital textbooks, online materials, or shopping through the website, both companies will be creating stronger online platforms for students. This includes improving online services after store hours to find, buy and rent books.
Barnes & Noble web application called the “NOOK Study” will allow students to access all their E-textbooks from macs and PCs, and is working on expanding it to other platforms.
Follett also mentioned that an online system would also allow for teacher to find books and materials for their classes. The system is built of several databases and has been tailored to work on all platforms and teaching programs.
The fate of the Apple store is still in question. Once a company has been chosen, SOU will have to negotiate with Apple on how they would like to interact with the other company. According to the Barnes & Noble, they have four clients that have contracts with Apple, and each negotiated a different contract to how to interact with them. Follett is partnered with many schools that have Apple stores, and said they could help with those negotiations.
Both companies said they would like to keep the SOU bookstore team. According to Follett, 97% of original employees are still in their store after the first year. Barnes & Noble noted that they would love to see all the employees stay.