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Posted on Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Four college bookstores in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti could close

By Nathan Bomey

The outlook for the college bookstore industry in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti has tumbled into a state of uncertainty in the aftermath of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of NBC Acquisition Corp.'s Nebraska Book Co.

Three college bookstores surrounding Eastern Michigan University's campus and one bookstore on the edge of the University of Michigan's central campus could close, according to bankruptcy documents reviewed by

Michigan Book and Supply — which is located on the corner of North University Avenue and South State Street in one of the highest-rental-rate commercial real estate spots in the county — has previously been reported as one of the stores that could close.


Michigan Book and Supply is one of four local bookstores that may close as a result of Nebraska Book Co.'s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

Photo via Flickr user sfgamchick

But Nebraska Book Co. also indicated in a bankruptcy filing that it may shutter Campus Book & Supply, Mike's Bookstore and Ned's Bookstore near EMU.

Ulrich's Bookstore on South University Avenue in Ann Arbor escaped the list of possible closures. Nebraska Book Co. on Jan. 17 received approval to extend the lease for Ulrich's through Aug. 31, 2016.

The possible closures highlight a bevy of challenges facing the college bookstore industry, including on-campus competitors, online giants like and the emergence of e-textbooks as a significant threat.

"College bookstores are just at the start of a pretty challenging time," said Michael Norris, a publishing industry analyst with Maryland-based Simba Information, in an email. "Those bookstores are no longer the concession stand in the theater that charges six bucks for Junior Mints."

Nebraska Book Co. won approval from a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge to take until April 30 to decide whether to assume or reject leases for about 40 stores throughout the U.S., including the local stores. That's about one-third of its off-campus stores, which have been a drag on the company's financial performance.

The company, which filed for bankruptcy protection in June, said in a newsletter that it would "continue to evaluate (the) performance" of those stores to determine which ones to maintain.

In Ypsilanti, that effectively sets up a competition between Ned's, Mike's and Campus Book & Supply — which share a parent company but have long been engaged in a fierce competition for customers.

Nebraska Book Co.'s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in the on-campus store segment are stable. But EBITDA in the off-campus store segment fell nearly 35 percent from $20.4 million to $13.4 million in the six-month period ended Sept. 30, according to a Jan. 23 filing.

Nebraska Book Co. believes it will be able to identify a sustainable business model that will win the approval of its creditors and a bankruptcy judge. The company's statements come after Ann Arbor-based bookstore chain Borders Group Inc. liquidated in 2011 after a brief bid to reorganize in Chapter 11.

"While we would like to have this behind us, we are pleased with the progress and remain confident we will successfully exit the Chapter 11 process in the near future," company president Barry Major said in a newsletter.

The company's decision to weigh closing many of its off-campus bookstores underscores the challenges they face in competing with on-campus stores, such as the stores in the student unions at EMU and U-M, in addition to online competitors like

"The changes in our industry over the last few years have been especially difficult for our off-campus bookstores and we are taking this time to ensure that we are making decisions that improve our bottom line," Major said in a Jan. 5 press release.

Complicating matters for college bookstores is a move toward electronic textbooks, a shift U-M is considering accelerating.

Norris said the transition to e-textbooks "isn't that rapid at the moment" and won't quickly dig into sales at college bookstores.

But, he said, general economic pressures are pressuring stores.

"When I went to college I accepted that I'd spend hundreds of dollars on books that I'd sell to the same store later for enough gas to get me home at the end of the semester," he said. "But with college costs now being what they are, students and parents are watching every dollar, so if college bookstores can't adjust their business to compete, they won't last long."

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Text books and cook books, just about anything in print is now online. You can also toss the eight track and cassette tapes also.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

I'm with JoJo -- Michigan Book and Supply has a good selection of art supplies within walking distance of campus and downtown. I'll miss that.

Jim Osborn

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

The high cost of college textbooks is a direct result of the publishers, not the retail stores. The stores do have higher costs associated with higher rent brought on by the general run up in real estate prices, but prices are still very high online, too. 30 years ago as a UCLA student, I worked at the UCLA bookstore a typical textbook was $20. That is about $60 in 2011 dollars. UCLA would buy back this $20 book for $12 (60%) and then resell it for $15 (75%). I spoke with my cousin's son who is a UCLA grad and a UM grad student and this practice has ended, as textbooks now change too often. I recently completed a MBA and many books cost $150 or more. This semester, I am taking an accounting class and while I was looking at books for different classes, many were $180 to $220 for loose-leaf books or $120 to rent it for 120 days. Online. The book I bought was $250 Textbooks 5 year to 10 years ago came with a CD that had quizzes and other help that could be used by subsequent students when the book was sold. This has ended.. One insidious part is a needed online component that needs a login key that only lasts for 6 months. A new book user will need to repurchase it for $109. Yes, I checked. The fault lies with the publishers and the professors who often write the books and desire to have as many new copies sold. There is no reason why a class could not adopt a book and make a commitment to use it for 5 years, even if a new edition comes out. In this case, used books from other colleges would be available for pennies, saving UM, Washtenaw, and EMU students hundreds.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:51 a.m.

This message is for MW: I am a student at one of the local colleges in the A2 area, I did not know this was going on. Thanks for the link for the story behind textbook publishing. No wonder the D*** books cost so much. Thanks again.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.

I'm laughing my behind off right now because the same folks who, in other discussions laud the efficiency and integrity of businessmen, here find them to be rip-off artists. Some intellectual consistency, please. Good Night and Good Luck

Monica R-W

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 7:11 a.m.

Yeap. That is true ERM.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:51 a.m.

mw: my comment is tounge in cheek and is about commenters above, not about the bookstores. GN&GL


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 1:57 a.m.

The businesses making the huge margins are not the college bookstores (which are, after all, going bankrupt)-it's the publishers. And the publishers couldn't charge those outlandish prices without the full co-operation of those choosing and assigning the texts (the professors, departments, and universities). Obviously, those making the selections don't much care about the prices (which perhaps isn't surprising, since the money isn't coming out of their pockets. In some cases, it's actually going *into* their pockets in the form of 'reviewing fees' or 'royalties' for 'customized textbooks') -- for example: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> If we had actual competition, textbooks would cost what other books of similar length and complexity cost. But students are a captive market -- captives not because of the publishers, but because of those assigning the textbooks.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

...and nothing of value was lost.

paul wiener

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

I agree: few will miss these stores, the books in them or the professors who require them. What this really opens up is the larger issue of how and whether the availability of another huge, prime space in A2 - similar to Borders' - will enable the town - with the University's help? - to join the 21st century and plan a central urban zone that provides social and retail comfort, convenience, innovation, architecture, color, interactivity, safety and pride.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

They took over this space after Kresge's closed. I am wondering what will go there now that this place is closing as well. A nice buffet perhaps? I keep reading how Barnes and Noble is now in trouble after knocking Borders off the podium. I guess when you are on top? Someone from the bottom knocks you off. Good luck with renting out that huge building.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

Good riddance. These guys are nothing but rip offs. You buy a book for $200 and when you try to sell it back, they offer you $20 (if you're lucky). Then they have the guts to put it back on the shelf for $190 or $200. What a joke.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

Actually, in the name of fairness, it is the PUBLISHERS who up the price for textbooks and encourage the professors (who often DON'T earn that much off textbooks) to constantly bring out &quot;new&quot; editions -- often incorporating useless cd-roms etc. to push up the horrible prices of textbooks. This was all done to offset the &quot;used&quot; textbook market of the 70's -90's. I do agree, however, that it is hard to shed too many tears over the demise of this major ripoff of a poorer population, i.e. students at our universities, who have no choice in the matter.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

too much competition and high prices


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

It's a new world and you have to adjust to new technologies. Universities and colleges should probably be on the alert now too...


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

We need to save the trees for we can breath. This is a step forward. On the other hand, if they are all electronic the what happens if the electricity goes out?


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

Our childs hi school books, most of them anyways, are now on line.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

You shouldn't be reading in the dark anyways. So it doesn't matter if the elecricity goes out.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

It's not the bookstores that have caused all the wallet-busting prices; much of the blame is the textbook publishers. The textbook publishers have been frightened of ebooks for over 10 years because of the large profits they now get. If the large universities and school systems will now require ebook texts, which are much easier easier to carry [you could probably carry 4 years worth in an ereader device] and have online distribution availability, the college bookstore as we know it , will disappear. Even though etextbooks SHOULD be much less expensive, I'm sure the publishers will find a new way to goudge us.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

This is one of the many problems with chain stores and the whole cretinous notion of &quot;branding&quot; (recently used for a real estate project as well). Not only do they homogenize our towns and cities in a sad manner, but they also impose crass and unimaginative visual elements that often do not fit into their environment--just look at how the 7/11 store on State St has made the area look like a dump. Then, it turns out that their viability is unconnected to the local economy--they create local demand and then disappear for no local reason at all. Unfortunately, there is no legal way of blocking chains, and in a democratic society there probably should not be, but they are a definite source of visual pollution in our landscape. The only thing I can do as an individual is to try to not patronize them, even if that is inconvenient at times, but in many cases that is simply impossible. I am happy to avoid fast food, but after all, there is no choice when it comes to a pharmacy ...


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

Hey Professor Nick Danger. Then why didn't you adopt the $20.00 book instead? College bookstores only order the books that the instructor selects. Too many instructors have gone along with publishers in creating expensive textbooks with all the bells and whistles, when the students really just want a basic book.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

Both of you need to re-read the last sentence of his post. GN&amp;GL


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

He teaches at a community college where textbooks are determined by the department. He probably has no choice.

Jojo B

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

Why are all of these stores owned by the same parent company? Seems like a local monopoly of sorts and when the parent dies, all of the kids die. I won't miss the outrageous prices, but having an art supply store near campus is very useful and will be missed.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

Yes, &quot;back in the day&quot; Ned's , Mike's &amp; the schools book store were seperate, (back when Ned, Fred &amp; Jack were the owners), but no more now it's all one company looking like 3 differnt places to give the students the idea of going someplace else


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

Text books take years to write and have a limited printing therefore the high cost. Anyway, I wonder how the people who hand printed books back before the printing press felt when they were no longer needed? The age of the Kindle and other pads for ebooks has arrived. I love my ipad because I can increase the font size so I now can read without reading something twice or thrice plus I can carry hundreds of books everywhere I go and read wherever I am. I can see the words clearly. Your text books will still cost a bondle but they will be ebooks or even rented ebooks. Hello ebooks. Goodby printed books.

Krystal Marie

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

I'd probably feel bad for these bookstores if they quit sucking the teat of book publishers and actually offered affordable materials. Or maybe left you with some of your dignity after repurchasing a $160 book for $10 and reselling it for $150.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

Textbooks (even the used ones) were a rip-off even when I was attending Eastern 20 years ago. I had a couple of professors who wouldn't use a textbook but would hand out copies. In the world of the internet this business model was doomed.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

I am laughing my behind off right now and could not be happier. These stores have been nothing but a complete rip off for the past 75 years. They , the publishing industry along with the corrupt individuals ( professor's) that change a few words and then demand the students buy the &quot;new version&quot; should be taken to task. My wife buys all her college textbooks at &quot;; or &quot;; for about half what these stores charge and then sells them back to &quot;bookbyte&quot; for a very reasonable return. Good Day


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

A professor owns corrupt individuals? Now that's news!


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

Are they not allowed to sell pot anymore?


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

It's not the bookstores ripping you off, it's the publishers. Retail markup is 20-30%. A small number of publishers have swallowed up most of the textbook industry. They publish new editions annually, fill them with useless but expensive graphics, and tie the purchase to a bunch of useless but expensive supplements. In math, many professors use Dover and Springer books to reduce cost to students but these aren't available for many fields. Don't blame the bookstore for price.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

But it's not the publishers selecting those overpriced books for classes and requiring students to buy them, it's the professors, colleges &amp; universities.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

But it is the bookstore buying back used books for pennies on the dollar and reselling them for a slightly lower price than new. Mike's even had the nerve of giving me a stupid store credit card instead of cash for selling them back a used book when I had nothing to buy. They said I could use the card many other places besides their bookstore, but nobody else will accept it as any kind of currency. I'm glad the information age has caught up to these modern day scam artists (publishers, authors, bookstores and everyone in between). Good riddance as far as I'm concerned!

Judey Kalchik

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

Thank you for your predictable inclusion of Borders into this story. I have found some comfort in knowing that Borders will always be alive as long as you continue to write, no matter how tenuous the reference.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

oh yeah, a story about bookstores closing, but probably no need to mention the huge national chain headquartered in ann arbor that closed last year -- yeah, no connection whatsoever -- stupid journalists always trying to make connections -- and GET OFF MY LAWN DAMN KIDS!


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

Good Riddance. These guys are legal thieves.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

Are there any LEGAL thieves? Just asking!

Nick Danger

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 11:18 a.m.

It's hard to feel sorry for the college book store.The prices for textbooks are outrageous.I teach photography at a community college and the required text is $133.00 dollars. The same information is available in non textbooks for about $20.00 and online for free.Needless to say I don't ask my students to purchase the text


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

But *who* selected that $133 textbook and what personal and/or institutional incentives led to that selection?