Bismarck State College students have taken on a project in which they are aiming to sell 20,000 books and DVDs gifted to the college by the North Dakota State Legislature.
These materials, published by the Dakota Press Institute, include the rich history of North Dakota, with titles such as "For the Love of North Dakota," "Lewis & Clark: Among the Nez Perce" and a collection of stories written by Theodore Roosevelt.
Now, selling these books and DVDs has become a task for two classes at BSC — e-commerce and project management — where 30 students this semester are learning hands-on how to market these books online and at the college's bookstore.
The goal is to sell 5,000 books and DVDs per semester, but the learning experience far outweighs the goal, according to Kevin Cavanagh, assistant professor of management, who teaches the two courses.
“A lot of times, we talk hypothetically about things, like creating Facebook posts and things like that. Now, they actually get to go do it," Cavanagh said.
Cavanagh is in his eigth year teaching at BSC, and he is also chair of the business department. He has experiences managing various businesses, including a farm cooperative and grain elevator, and he also owns Bearscat Bakehouse in Bismarck. Book-selling, though, is not his specialty, he conceded.
“Where can you sell books at? And who buys them? So, that was a big learning experience for us, myself included, because I’ve never sold books," he said.
The books were given to BSC after Gov. Doug Burgum line item vetoed legislation that would have allowed the books to return to their authors and producers.
BSC President Larry Skogen said Burgum had asked him if there was a better, more productive way to sell the materials, rather than just give them away. Skogen said he mentioned the courses Cavanagh teaches, and that he'd be the right person for the job.
"We’ve got actual products that the students are selling. I think it’s a wonderful exercise for our students," Skogen said.
The students took to social media, including Facebook, where they started a page devoted to the project and getting the word out. They did email alumni and utilized BSC’s website to promote the books. Most of the materials have also been listed on Amazon.
The hardest part, said Alexandra Skalicky, 22, a BSC student studying business entrepreneurship, has been finding the right market for the books. One book is about a Fargo runner, and another is a translated collection of 73 Psalms of David.
Who wants to buy those types of books, and how do we reach them? Skalicky said were the questions her project management class asked. They worked through some of these questions and found some success.
“This is actual book sales," said Skalicky, who one day wants to become the owner of a humanitarian-based company that sells products made in developing countries to increase awareness.
Skalicky said she's learned communication skills, how to work with media organizations and build a website.
So far, the classes have sold about 1,000 books and DVDs. Cavanagh said next semester, after getting all of the materials listed online, the classes should be able to sell more. They're considering getting the authors involved to do book readings and signings.
Funds raised from selling the items will go toward the college's general fund, according to Skogen.
“We’ll make sure that it’s student-centric for sure, whatever we’re doing with it," he said.
For more information on the books and DVDs, visit www.bismarckstate.edu/community/DakotaInstituteCollection/.