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Bookstore will begin its renovation at semester's end

The Brown Bookstore is delaying the start of its planned extensive renovations until after the end of the semester, said Manuel Cunard, bookstore director. The bookstore originally planned to begin construction this month, but bookstore staff have decided to begin demolition after commencement due to budget complications and safety issues.

Cunard said most of the renovations should be complete by August, including reconstruction of the textbook department and the installation of new registers on the main floor. The apparel and computer departments will be complete in September, and the cafe and general level will be finished in November. Cunard said the entire project should be complete by December. The bookstore had originally hoped to complete the project in October.

"It's still as comprehensive as the original program," Cunard said. "It's a little bit off, but not too bad. It won't have a disruptive effect on the fall because we are phasing the stages of construction to stay away from critical times."

The textbook department is slated to move to the lower level, where the computer store and support center currently operates. The general books section and campus store - which will continue to sell both merchandise and office supplies - will both be spread through the main and upper levels. The main floor will also hold the cafe, community meeting rooms, children's books section and a new checkout area in the middle of the floor.

In addition to part of the general books section and campus store, the upper level will house the computer store. Two "Your Spaces" - models of a residence hall and a living room featuring some merchandise available in the store - will be installed in the north end of the store.

Cunard said he hopes students will be able to use FlexPoints at the cafe, but he is still negotiating with Brown Dining Services. The cafe will remain open for longer hours than the general bookstore and Cunard said he hopes it can become a comfortable environment for students to spend time off the main campus.

Cunard added that the renovations are part of a program to update the bookstore to adapt to the changing way people shop for books.

The bookstore is "moving very aggressively" towards creating a new Web site and updating its online catalog, Cunard said, in response to declining sales across the entire collegiate bookstore industry as shoppers turn towards the Internet. The Brown bookstore has successfully maintained sales at around $12 million per year, he said.

"We've had a pretty decent year. We've held firm and we're up from last year, which is not the case with most bookstores," Cunard said. "The college bookstore industry is way down right now."

Part of the bookstore's plan to offset declining textbook sales is to begin selling electronic book devices, such as Sony's Portable Reader and's Kindle. These electronic devices can usually hold around 500 books, and electronic copies of books, downloaded to one of these devices, cost approximately 70 to 80 percent as much as books in traditional paper format.

Trade Books and Promotions Manager Tova Beiser recently purchased a Sony Reader for the bookstore and is considering marketing such devices to students in the fall. She said she is very supportive of the technology, but added that she isn't sure it can fully replace traditional books.

"It just holds a lot, but it's not the same," Beiser said. "There's something about the way a book smells and feels that's important, but that might be something that this generation is moving away from."

Cunard said he feels the bookstore has to be prepared for the changing future of textbook sales - which may involve selling textbooks as downloads to electronic book devices.

"We have got to embrace and celebrate this new technology. Students should begin to look at eBooks and electronic books because traditional textbooks are going to be gone," Cunard said.

"We want to press it because it'll have a real positive impact about the value that people get. We can't control the value of textbooks."


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