Ole Miss Barnes & Noble : Keeping the Business Afloat

While the age of print may be declining as a whole, Barnes and Noble is staying relevant as a company due to their college bookstores.

According to a press release from the company, their college revenue suffered a -.6 percent decrease from the third quarter of 2013, to the third quarter of 2014.  But, the company’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) has increased by 3.9 percent.

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(http://www.barnesandnobleinc.com/press_releases/2_26_14_bn_fy2014_3q_results.htm)

The third quarter felt the increase with the approaching of Spring semester for college kids.  “With students returning to class for the spring semester, higher margins helped college earnings rise 3.9 percent to $35 million dollars,” said Forbes.com on their website.

According to the Ole Miss branch of the store, they are still going strong.  “…unfortunately I can not speak of the business aspect of it [sales] other than we have had a good year and we hope that we, Barnes and Noble on the Ole Miss campus, continue to be able to serve the faculty, students, and the community as the number one bookstore,” said Laurie Woo, manager at the Barnes and Noble on Campus.

So why do college campus Barnes and Noble do so well?  With the rise of tablets, you would think that students would be switching over to digital editions.  Here at Ole Miss, that proves to not be the case, and students seem to always be purchasing their texts for class.

“I’ve never bought an e-edition of a book, it just doesn’t work for me, I need a book I can physically highlight and touch, basically something I can destroy,” said senior Sam Johnson

Destroying these books may not be an economical decision for these students.  Barnes and Noble makes a great deal on these books, adding hugely to the company’s profit.  For example, look at “Biology : The Essentials.”  This is a highly purchased book with non-biology majors.  At the Ole Miss Bookstore, the book can be purchased for $107.40 -143.20.  At an online booksellers, such as Amazon.com, the book can be purchased used for as little as $85.00.

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Yet, many professors give students the opportunity to buy an e-edition of a book.

“I do give my students the option to buy the hard copy, an e-version, or even to buy NO copy because we have a hard copy on reserve at the library,” said professor of biology, Dr. Tiffany Bensen, via email.

Some teachers are not concerned about cost.  Most professors choose books solely on their needs, and they leave it up to students to find the best deals on their texts.

“In the biology for non-majors classes, there are several of us teaching the class and we all use the same book, so it’s a group decision which book to use.  In that sense, we choose the book that we all agree is best for the class, with little regard to the cost,” said Bensen.

For many editions of books, the e-edition of a book is much cheaper.  Also, e-editions may be more convenient.  But for many students, as Johnson mentioned above, the use of an e-edition can be distracting and not beneficial.

If students can get books cheaper in other locations, why do they pay the extra?  One reason is convenience.

“I’m from the east coast, and honestly trying to pack my stuff was enough of a hassle, I didn’t need to worry about books too.  I mean if you can buy them on campus, why wouldn’t you?” said freshman Mackenzie Hines.

It is no secret that the print industry has been struggling for the past few years.  During this time, Barnes and Noble in particular has been under scrutiny for their decrease in sales, and many believe that the the Nook is the only thing saving them.

This in fact is inaccurate.  According to an article by Bloomberg Business Week, “Device sales dropped more than 50 percent, to $157 million, in the quarter, and digital content sales dropped 27 percent.”

This statistic is proving to be accurate with the amount of Ole Miss students still purchasing the hard copies of books.

Barnes and Noble on campus also is able to make a profit off other products.  The store offers school merchandise, ranging from clothing to game day face stickers.  They also sell school supplies.  These include cheap items, such as pens and pencils, and more expensive items, like calculators.

(Clip from Alex Able, a freshman at Ole Miss)

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