Contracting the Pierce College bookstores and other options to increase revenue have been considered due to concerning finances in recent years.
Figures have shown that gross sales between 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 decreased by $477,992 and sales per full time student have been going down since 2008.
“The challenge is that the historical model of a bookstore becomes unsustainable in an environment with online competition and open source textbooks,” Joann Wiszmann, vice president of administrative services, said.
It’s getting more difficult for small, self-operating college bookstores to compete with textbook rental sites, online retailers and contracted vendors. Other community college systems like Seattle Community College and Lake Washington Technical Institute have contracted bookstore vendors rather than have a school owned bookstore.
Pierce College notified employees in December that they are pursuing contracting vendors for the bookstore. Vendors must offer digital textbook software that’s not device specific, more inventory and in-store rental options according to Wiszmann.
Marge Bethel, Puyallup campus bookstore assistant manager, has worked at the Puyallup bookstore for 22 years. She remembers seeing the book industry start to change ever since outside companies started buying back student’s books.
“Things have gotten very, very, very competitive,” Bethel said. “There are a lot more places that students can go to get their needs met.”
Because state laws define how to contract out work currently being done by state employees, college officials must take steps and follow a timeline while pursuing contracting.
That means it could be months before a request to contract is proposed. Then, current employees have an opportunity to bargain with the college or propose other options.
“The goal is to keep prices down for students,” Wiszmann said.
The money Pierce College would receive from the vendor could possibly replace, reduce or eliminate the current financial support the college contributes to keep the bookstore operational. This support includes paying for electricity costs and other day-to-day facility expenses.
The transition from self-operation to contracting would also provide the college with about $600,000 between the two campus stores when the vendor purchases the current inventory.
This one-time payment could be reinvested into Pierce College.
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