Follett replaces Barnes & Noble as bookstore provider
Update 6/17: Barnes & Noble closed Friday, June 14 and Follett will take over as the main bookstore provider Monday, June 14.
A temporary pop-up store will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from June 17-20 at the former Law Center bookstore. There will be tote bags, UH shirts and testing supplies.
Original: Barnes & Noble, the main textbook retailer at the University of Houston for more than three decades, will close in the coming weeks and be replaced by Follett, another national bookstore chain.
The switch could mean new options for books and a change in prices on clothes, accessories and textbooks. The rebranding will happen over a few days in mid-June, according to a news release sent out by the University.
“We believe our new campus store contract will bring additional benefits to help support student success by providing new affordability options for course materials and stronger options,” said Matt Prasifka, interim executive director of UH Auxiliary Services.
The bookstore is the only on-campus location that sells textbooks and textbook access codes. The idea that prices could change is worrying some students, even if they buy their books online mainly.
“Sometimes textbooks and specific books you have to buy here,” said psychology junior Muscan Momin. “You never know when you need to buy in the bookstore, and (prices) will be a concern.”
Prasifka said students should not worry about price changes and that UH chose Follett, in part, because of their options for buying and renting used books.
“Follett will be required to provide as many affordable options as possible as well as educate student and faculty on options available to them,” Prasifka said. “Along with a large inventory of affordable new textbooks, students can save money by purchasing used books or taking part in the textbook rental program.”
The change comes after Barnes & Noble’s nine-year contract expired and a committee made of representatives from different parts of the UH System evaluated their options. The committee primarily looked for a provider that will offer affordability options for course material, new merchandise with different styles and prices, and more online resources, Prasifka said in an email.
Follett came out on top, beating the retailer that has been with UH for decades.
“We have served the University of Houston community for more than 30 years, providing a vibrant social and academic hub in the heart of campus,” said Carolyn Brown, Barnes & Noble’s senior vice president, corporate communications and public affairs. “While we are disappointed with the university administration’s decision to move in a different direction, we are very proud of our many years spent serving UH students, faculty and alumni.”
While the two providers are competitors now, they didn’t start that way. The stores can both trace their origins to Charles M. Barnes, who began selling used books out of his Illinois home in 1873.
While their name recognition may not be as notable to students as their predecessor, Follett is one of the largest book providers for K-12, college and even public libraries, according to their website.
The retailer operates about 1,200 local campus stores and 1,600 virtual stores. The contract with UH will add six more locations across the UH System.
Those who currently work at the bookstore do not automatically get to keep their jobs. They will need to apply if they would like to continue to work there.
“Follett is encouraging all current employees to apply for open positions,” Prasifka said. “Those applications are already open, and Follett will be conducting interviews in the coming weeks.”
Until Follett opens, students will not know exactly how prices or services will compare.
“I hope they have more second-hand books and an option for people to sell their books there instead of posting notes around campus like, ‘Hey call me if you need this textbook’,” Momin said. “I think it would decrease a lot of burden for students.”