Off-campus bookstore sizes up the competition

For Northern Kentucky University students, the recent takeover of the on campus bookstore by Barnes & Noble means a few changes in the store’s products and layout. But what does the new ownership mean to the competition, such as Campus Book & Supply on Martha Layne Collins Boulevard? The Cold Springs, Ky. business may find that with the introduction of Barnes & Noble on campus, they could have a little more to live up to than in years prior.

When comparing prices of new and used textbooks between the two stores, Campus Book & Supply will usually, if not always, offer the books at a cheaper price. For this reason, many students have chosen to shop at the off-campus store rather than on campus.

Tim Bell, an NKU freshman, says that he prefers Campus Book & Supply because his understanding is that he will get a better deal there. “I like to go off campus to get books because they’re cheaper than the NKU bookstore,” he said. “I’m always one to go with whatever is the cheapest, and I’ve found that Campus Book & Supply will cost me the least money.”

However, management at the Barnes & Noble on-campus bookstore said that they are dedicated to bringing the best deals to students. “We’re not only looking to make sales, but we’re looking to provide a service,” said Emily Conley, director of NKU Barnes & Noble.

“As a whole, keeping our prices low is our main goal.” In order to ensure this guarantee to students, Conley said they are willing to price match anything that students find at Campus Book & Supply at a lower rate.

In addition to price matching, Barnes & Noble provides other opportunities for students to find their required textbooks at a lower price than they would at Campus Book & Supply. For instance, Barnes & Noble has a wide selection of books that can be rented, which is generally less expensive than buying them, either new or used.

Campus Book & Supply also has rentals available, but not quite as many as Barnes & Noble. Unlike the off-campus bookstore, Barnes & Noble offers eBooks, or downloadable electronic versions of textbooks for a PC or Mac, which is a cheaper option as well.

Despite the new ownership of the NKU bookstore by Barnes & Noble, management at Campus Book & Supply said that they are not too worried about losing business. “I don’t think our sales will directly be affected by Barnes & Noble moving in on campus,” said Steve Kline, manager of Campus Book & Supply.

“Our business has the goal of continuously lowering prices, and I think that’s what attracts students to us the most,” Kline said they are making a constant effort to improve their selection of rentals as well. “The option for NKU students to rent their textbooks is fairly new,” he said. “Barnes & Noble is a large company, whereas we are small and privately owned, so they may have the jump on things as far as rentals go. However, we pretty much try to base our rental selection on which rentals they have available.”

Dave Kline, another manager at Campus Book & Supply, said that their business has no intentions of looking into selling eBooks in order to compete with Barnes & Noble.

Offering eBooks, he believes, is not a good business strategy for a textbook dealer. “eBooks really defeat the purpose of a bookstore, and this type of technology could very well eliminate the need for all bookstores, including Barnes & Noble,” said Dave. “Besides, we haven’t seen much of a request from students to start selling eBooks, anyway.”

NKU Barnes & Noble and Campus Book & Supply may be two separate establishments who both aim to attract business from the same clientele, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are cut-throat competition. “We actually work pretty closely with the on-campus bookstore, so that we can ensure that students are going to get what they need no matter where they go,” said Steve.

Emily Conley offers a similar perspective. “Barnes & Noble and Campus Book & Supply both share a common goal,” she said. “Both of us just want to make sure that the products that NKU students need are readily available, and at a reasonable price.”