On February 27, University Book & Supply in Cedar Falls, Iowa, was acquired by the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). A former member of EDmarket, the college bookstore and educational products retailer will operate as a not-for-profit entity of the university so it can maintain reasonable educational costs for students, according to the UNI website. The acquisition gives students the opportunity to charge the cost of their textbooks and other materials to their university bill and use their financial aid to cover it.
The store originated as Latta’s School and Office supplies & equipment and was later renamed University Book & Supply. it has served and supported the university and surrounding community for 80 years from a convenient downtown location.
Before the acquisition, UNI was the only one of Iowa’s three regent schools that didn’t own a bookstore.
The six private shareholders of University Book & Supply approached officials at UNI last spring. In December, the university sought permission from its board of regents to buy the store for $2.4 million, a figure that did not include the value of textbooks and merchandise estimated to be worth $575,000. The proposal did include the bookseller’s Cedar Falls real estate and the Hawkeye Bookstore on the Hawkeye Community College Campus in Waterloo, Iowa, according to the Cedar Falls Gazette.
While it has long fulfilled the unofficial role of a one-stop shop for UNI students, alumni and friends, the store was purchased “to allow the bookstore to be more tightly integrated with the university, enabling store employees to work closely with faculty members and coordinate with the orientation staff to better serve new students,” says the university.
Most of the store’s staff, including the part-time student employees, will be retained. Doug Johnson, a shareholder who has spent nearly 40 years working full-time at University Book & Supply, will remain on staff and serve as store director.
“UNI is seeking to enter the bookstore business at a time of seismic shift, with virtual textbooks and online marketplaces morphing the industry,” notes The Gazette. “Many campus bookstores dramatically have altered operations and inventory. Some dropped physical books entirely and partnered with online retailers to become official electronic book vendors. Others closed.”
Johnson conceded in a December interview that online competition had hurt store sales. “It has cut into our business,” he told The Gazette. “We’ve seen that over the past five years.”