Western Michigan University Bookstore Struggles To Compete With Online Companies; Considers Outsourcing Management

Ann McClure's picture

Western Michigan University’s bookstore is struggling to compete with major companies that sell textbooks cheap online and is considering outsourcing management to cut costs.

“The challenge in the market is that all of these online companies are taking away a lot of business,” said Sandra Steinbach, WMU’s associate vice president for business and finance. “We have to buy books at individual levels. If you can buy at national prices, you can get a better price than a local bookstore that only sells to the local community. They offer better pricing.”

The bookstore had to lay off five employees this year as result of revenue dropping 6 percent from last year. The university bookstore generated $16 million in revenue from books, computers, clothing and supplies last year during the 2011-12 academic year. The store employs 18 full-time and 12 part-time workers and 55 students on a part-time basis, said Steinbach.

Alex Lee, a WMU senior, said he has spent as much as $600 per semester on textbooks in the past. Last semester, he decided to listen to his friends and purchase his books on Chegg.com and his books “were significantly cheaper.”

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