Karl Pohrt, the owner of Shaman Drum Bookshop, said yesterday that he’s considering turning his store into a nonprofit organization – a move that could allow the shop to lower its book prices for students.
Pohrt said the struggling state of independent bookstores has led him to think about transforming the shop from a business to a non-profit organization. The $6.5 billion textbook industry has been in a state of flux due to the growth of the Internet and websites like eBay.com and Amazon.com.
“I think that what we stand for – a literary culture, a book culture – is really endangered in the country,” Pohrt said. “How is it going to survive in this entertainment economy, when things are constantly being dumbed down and people who aren’t honoring complexity?”
Pohrt said he will decide by March whether he will turn his store into a nonprofit.
“What I’m trying to do here is pretty tricky,” he said. “I want to see the store, and what it represents, survive. A lot of places across the country are trying to do this because they need support.”
In order to become a non-profit organization, a detailed description of the organization and its activities must be filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The organization must also submit financial records with the IRS for the current tax year and the past three tax years.
Based on this information, the IRS decides whether or not to grant nonprofit status to a company.
Students, parents and lawmakers have voiced concerns about high textbook prices.
Pohrt, who has owned the store for 28 years, said textbook publishing companies bear most of the responsibility for the sharp rise in textbook prices.
According to a report by the National Association of College Stores, about 65 cents of every dollar spent on textbooks goes to the publishing industry.
In an effort to be more transparent to the student body, Pohrt offered two students – LSA freshmen Mengyuan Hou and Marcus Smith – unpaid internships in the store. Hou and Smith were charged with reporting back to the Michigan Student Assembly to provide a better look at the oft-criticized textbook industry.
If Shaman Drum were to become a nonprofit bookstore, it would pay lower taxes, which would decrease its operating expenses. The store could then pass along those savings to customers.
Pohrt said both Hou and Smith influenced his decision to consider turning the store into a nonprofit organization.
“They helped us ask an important question: what are other models of doing business?” Pohrt said. “Could we be a not-for-profit? We’re in the process of trying to figure that out now, and I’m taking that very seriously, trying to come up with another model.”
The store owner said that two more students from MSA will work intern in the store this semester.
– Daily News Editor Chris Herring contributed to this report.