Bookstore not in red, deficit rumors dispelled

Rumors swirling through UAA’s student body have recently included the declaration that the campus bookstore is experiencing financial difficulties and is  in a deficit.

Alessandra Vanover and Bob McDonnell, the Directors of the Bookstore and Business Services, met to dispel the speculation.

“Right now, we are definitely not in a deficit,” Vanover squarely stated.

Both were surprised to hear of the rumor traveling the student grapevine, especially given that representatives of the students are privy to the truth.

Business Services oversees the Bookstore as well as several other university entities.  Interconnecting these sects is a Business Services Working Group, in which there are five USUAA Student Representatives who contribute and know the details of the components of Business Services.

“The senators know that [the rumor] is not right,” McDonnell explained. “So I was very surprised.”

The buzz was centered on two issues: the recent renovations done within the store and textbook sales.

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The Bookstore has recently installed a new banister, shelves, and most recently spent $100,000 upgrading the elevator between their floors. But these expenses were included in the budget, and no loss has been incurred, stated Vanover.

“The expenses come from what we earn,” she explained. “The money that students and faculty spend here stays on campus.”

The UAA Campus Bookstore is categorized as an auxiliary and has no official ties to the University or its funding – a situation differing from UAF’s “eFollet” and other university bookstores around the nation.

The second issue, and perhaps most relevant to students, was textbooks. With a rapidly changing technological interface between students and education resources, the future of paperbound textbooks has been questioned.

In a New York Times article at the end of 2011, Kathy Micky, a senior analyst at the publishing research company Simba Information, projected that by 2013 electronic textbooks will comprise 11 percent of the textbook market revenue.

Vanover believes Alaska will be less affected, but still recognizes the reality of the changing market.

“We’ve expected a decline somewhat,” she said. “But I think the game changer is going to be in a few years with the iPad.”

She projects it could be one year or five, but that the transfer is coming.

Right now, textbooks make up the main source of the Bookstore’s revenue, while other commodities (apparel, sundries) generate the actual profit. The Bookstore as an entity is categorized as a nonprofit organization. Instead of focusing on profit, the Bookstore is geared toward breaking even – which is the situation with textbook sells.

“Textbooks bring in the most revenue, but they are also the highest expense,” said Vanover.

The process of textbook purchases and sales is intricate. The UAA Bookstore will purchase textbooks from a wholesaler and sell them to students. At the end of the semester, faculty members are required to indicate whether they will be used again or not. If professors intend to reuse the textbook, the Bookstore will buy back the book, usually for 50 percent of the original cost, according to Vanover.

Textbook Buyback actually results in profit for the store, due to the saved cost on freight and packaging. Sometimes, however, faculty members change their mind and the Bookstore is left with a book they have no use for.

If this happens, the Bookstore will resell the book to the Missouri Bookstore System, Nebraska Bookstore System, or Amazon. If none of the wholesalers have a need for the book, it becomes “dead stock” and is thrown into a recycling bin.

Often the Bookstore will donate these books to the Learning Resource Center, the Elmendorf-Fort Richardson Joint Military Base, or other nonprofits that come searching.

Anther element of the Bookstore is the speaker series that is offered to faculty and students. It is the Bookstore’s effort to give back to the UAA community and is part of the community square, stated Vanover.

Through these intricate sections that make up the Bookstore, the campus outlet has managed to keep its head above water and proven any rumors about their financial demise false.