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The Communicator NEWS & POLITICS

Potential Bookstore Changes on the Way

Written by: Bernadette BeckerJanuary 18, 2017

Follett Corp.’s contract with IPFW will expire at the end of May, opening up opportunities for a new operator to take the helm of IPFW’s bookstore.

IPFW’s Director of Purchasing, Cyndy Elick, said although she cannot give explicit details about the current search, the main contenders are Folletts and Barnes and Noble.

Follett’s is the largest campus retailer in higher education, according to their website, and has been the IPFW campus bookstore operator for the past few decades. Meanwhile, Barnes and Noble is a household name, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange and the largest online bookseller in the world, according to their website.

IPFW, Purdue Northwest Calumet and Purdue Northwest Westville are actually serviced jointly by the current deal with Follett’s and have historically chosen to invite servicers as a unit so that all three campuses can get a better deal, according to Elick.

The request for proposal process and deliberations for finding a bookstore can take up to 18 months, according to Elick. She has been working on this current search since before August 2016.

The search begins with Elick and the purchasing department creating a request for proposals, which is a formal process of inviting vendors to submit an outline for service to both IPFW individually and the three campuses as a whole.

Once vendors have been invited they gather information, Elick said. This information gathering includes vendors taking a tour of the campus, being given all relevant numbers regarding the campus and the business to the bookstore, and gathering data about the needs of each campus itself.

After the proposals are submitted from each vendor, the three campuses review the proposals for the best fit to their needs. These vendors compete to operate on campus because this is a source of profit for their companies, and so they pay the university for the ability to make profit here.  But Elick said it is a balance to make sure students and faculty are still getting a good deal and access to what they need while helping the bookstore make a profit.

Recently, the rise of online booksellers caused IPFW to deliberate as to whether a traditional bookstore was in the best interest of the university, according to Elick.

Purdue University had not had a physical bookstore before and in 2016 moved to an official relationship with Amazon Online Booksellers.

Campus Bookstore Consulting, an independent consulting firm, recommended that IPFW maintain a traditional bookstore for at least five more years until there are more developments in how spiritwear and other items are managed once books are online, she said.

The most recent change at IPFW’s bookstore was Follett’s choice to alphabetize books by author last name rather than keeping books in department-related sections. Elick confirmed that this was a decision chosen by Follett’s administration and not by local staff.

While IPFW does have some influence over the management level of the bookstore, it is mainly operated and controlled by Follett’s. Although book access would likely not change if Follett’s left, the price of books or the mechanism for the e-book programs would change.

Elick said they hope to have the new contract decided by mid-February. This is especially important, Elick said, because the bookstore must be operable even for summer sessions, so any transfer or change would need to happen quickly and smoothly.