“Shaman Drum is totally ripping me off.”

Those were my thoughts after my first visit to Shaman Drum after paying hundreds of dollars for a few softcover textbooks. What I did not realize then, was that Shaman Drum made almost nothing from my purchase.

As consumers, the only things we see are the final price tags. Therefore, when we have to buy a 74-page softcover textbook for over $100, it is hard not to envision all of that money going straight to the pocketbooks of the textbook store owners. However, my recent internship with Shaman Drum has taught me that there often is more than meets the eye when it comes to the textbook industry.

Always on the lookout for new opportunities, I was ecstatic when I learned about the Shaman Drum internship at Festifall. Being interested in business marketing, I had envisioned the internship as an innovative way to learn about the structure of a business from a different viewpoint. But what I took from the experience proved to be so much more.

Thrust into meetings with publishers in our first week at Shaman Drum, I knew that the pace of the internship would be perfect for me. In the first few weeks, we went through all the offices of Shaman Drum at an almost dizzying pace. It was wonderful. Although the internship was set up to be information intensive, the staff at Shaman Drum presented everything in a digestible way. As someone who has worked on numerous committees in the past, I was impressed by the organizational skills of the Shaman Drum Company. I soon realized that it was because it had to be.

There are so many different aspects of the textbook industry that continually change; Shaman Drum has to be completely on top of everything to just stay afloat. Although a textbook may sell for over $100, Shaman Drum will only make $10 or less per book. In fact, the revenue that the store generates during its fall and winter rush basically runs the entire store for the year, including both downstairs stores. Shaman Drum really does not make that much at all.

In fact, Karl Pohrt, the owner of Shaman Drum, wants to use the internship to faze the company into a non-profit, student-run organization dedicated to securing the lowest textbook prices for all students. Karl’s vision, along with the Michigan Student Assembly and LSA’s commitments to lowering the rising cost of textbook prices, led to the formation of the current program. The basic premise was to create an internship for two students who would shadow the owners of Shaman Drum and generate a policy proposal to decrease the price of textbooks.

In my final weeks at Shaman Drum with the other intern, Marcus Smith, our proposal idea started with the random topic of recycling paper. That idea led to a discussion about coupons and value cards. Marcus and I presented the entirety of the proposal at the LSA open meeting last night. The crux of it is that students will be offered a $1000 gift card for $800, valid for any three semesters they choose.

We are still refining the proposal and would love any suggestions. Direct any comments or ideas to the LSA Student Government.

– Mengyuan Hou is an LSA freshman. She was the business office marketing intern for the Shaman Drum during fall term.

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