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« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | Grange House »

March 28, 2008

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Belle

A tiny tidbit in the same vein: Be it resolved that workers within university bookstores should know something about books.

At my R1, I found a new thesaurus and took it to check out. The cashier had never seen one before and had no idea what one was. Thought Roget had just invented it.

a philosopher

I hope that you did get down to the courthouse square to check out Caveat Emptor Books, which is a pretty decent used bookstore in town. (I'm assuming you're talking about IU in this post.)

Frank

What I personally loathe is wading through racks of sweatshirts, shirts, pants and all the rest of the impedimenta our University bookstore seems to feel is the single reason to have a bookstore in the first place. Oh yes, and all these hoodies,and their like, are stamped with the University logo as though we really need to be bludgeoned with it continually. Also why is that the clothes section is 4 times as large as the book section? Second hand bookshops for me, I'm afraid.

a historian

My bookstore actually has a substantial number of books other than those ordered for courses. The problem is that they are severely overpriced, even compared to nearby brick and mortar establishments.

Bourgeois Nerd

As a former college bookstore worker, I can tell you it's very simple: clothes and textbooks are VERY profitable. The mark-up versus what the customer pays is quite substantial. Regular books? Not very profitable at all. As with most independents, unlike chain bookstores or your Wal-Marts, college bookstores just can't buy in enough bulk for publishers/distributors to give them favorable rates. There is a mark-up, and a profit, but it's much, much smaller than for other things. And when the college bookstore is in an area with a selection of regular bookstores people can go to buy general works, often at a discount, not to mention ordering stuff online almost ALWAYS at a discount, there's really little incentive for anyone to buy books at the college bookstore. Therefore, stock tends to sit... and sit... and sit, making the profit on it even lower when compared to the cost of keeping it for months or even years waiting for someone to pick it up.

College and universities with their own presses, or with professors who publish a lot, should, IMO, definitely stock those books. But in general, and for most college bookstores, general books just aren't cost effective. In the store I worked at, at least, they were kept out of a sense of tradition and obligation, when the space, at least, could have been much better served added to the textbook department.

Roger

And why should college bookstores be run for maximum profit?

Brandon

I think Bourgeois Nerd is right: it's just not going to be feasible unless the college either (1) contracts a bookstore chain, e.g., arranges for the college bookstore to be a Barnes & Noble; or (2) makes a deal with an off-campus local bookstore, one that's already doing fairly well on its own, to serve as the college bookstore. There are potential disadvantages with both. Perhaps you could do without either if the bookstore were heavily subsidized (e.g., by the college, or by alumni) to do this very thing -- but it seems unlikely that this would last long.

Bourgeois Nerd

"And why should college bookstores be run for maximum profit?"

Quite, but the fact is that many, if not most, ARE these days. Most colleges, especially state ones that are often at the mercy of ever-tightening budgets and often non-existent endowments, simply don't have the resources or inclination to carry the dead, or at least comatose, weight of a non-profitable or marginally profitable bookstore, especially when there are plenty of other things that need money. Bookstores are often cashcows they can use to fund other stuff.

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