My Love-Hate Relationship With The Campus Bookstore

As a book nerd, I’m all about bookstores.  I love the atmosphere, the celebration of literature, and the quiet library-esque respect that generally pervades the area.  Campus bookstores are pretty cool places if you are into book culture.  I always find them extremely comfortable, and somehow they motivate me to want to get smarter.  It’s like being around all that knowledge and in the presence of history’s greatest minds makes you want to aim higher by osmosis.  You just feel more “college studet-ish” or something like that.  My campus bookstore had comfy places to curl up and preview the books you were considering purchasing, and it had convenient windows for people watching if you wanted to take a quick mental break, it was a great place to kill an hour as you waited for someone.  The staff were young students themselves, and I always found them to be very friendly and helpful.  All in all, I think going to a campus bookstore is a great experience… right up until you hit the cash register.

Everything Is Great, Except Your Main Product

While I think the college bookstore experience is an authentic part of being a post-secondary student, I can’t in good conscience recommend it for its primary purpose – which is to sell textbooks!  If you check out our textbook article, you’ll notice that the bookstore just isn’t a very good place to buy textbooks (and they never go on sale).  Really, the bottom line is that the whole textbook industry has way too many middlemen and all take ridiculous profit margins on items that they know are very “inelastic” in terms of sales.  This basically means that they know students have to buy their stuff, so they can charge an ungodly amount for them if they so choose.  Sometimes you’ll have no choice but to get your book through the bookstore.  If you are in an upper-level course, or a very niche subject area, or even if you have a new professor that just wants to plug their own book, you might run into a situation where you can find the book online, at a library, or track down a used copy anywhere.  If you are on the side of angels in terms of respecting copyright law, then your only real option is to grin and bear it.  Don’t succumb to this lay approach until you have exhausted all other options however, it always astound me how hard students are willing to work for money only to needlessly throw it into the textbook black hole.

It’s You, Not Me

Don’t be jaded campus bookstore, it’s nothing personal.  It’s not you, it’s… well sorry, actually it is you.  I’m not saying we can’t be friends.  I mean I’ll still drop by every so often and check out any of your regular paperbacks that you’ve got on sale.  You’re still the best game in town when it comes to buying the inevitable campus sweatshirt that every student must own in order to be considered a real post-secondary student.  We had some good times together, and if you ever want to meet up just to have some casual magazine browsing or something I’m good with that.  You should know though that I’m seeing other textbook providers.  Their sleeker, and more efficient.  I’m a shallow guy when it comes to textbooks, for me it’s all about the money.  I’m not worried about you though campus bookstore, you’re a decent catch, and there is a new crop of freshmen every year for you to work your charms… after all, they don’t know any better.

A Job’s a Job!

In all seriousness, campus bookstores are fine for certain select items like campus clothing and maybe an emergency pen buy, but other than that I would stay away from their incredibly large mark ups.  The best reason to walk into a campus bookstore is actually to find a job there.  I had a few friends that worked there and they raved about it.  The hours are extremely flexible since they are used to working with students and student schedules (something you can’t say about many employers), it’s right on campus which makes it very efficient in terms of commute time and scheduling conflicts, and you work with a super young staff in a fun setting.  Plus the pay was pretty good too (150% minimum wage at the time).  Work for the system and then spend your money against it!  It might not be the most moral of stances to take, but my meagre post-secondary bank account (and most out there I would assume) didn’t have the luxury of moral stances when I was in school.

Related: Finding a Part-Time Job While In School

Were you the type of student that just blindly walked into the bookstore with your booklist and plunked down several hundred bucks?  Did you learn from this the first time you did it?

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11 years ago

I have never been in the campus book store and I like you idea to pass some hours while you are just lifting your mind up or waiting for someone. I always love to go to the library to surround myself with all types of books. Great.

Jessica N
11 years ago

I completely understand! As another fellow book-lover I find myself drifting more and more to the internet for books. Especially since I could care less if my awesome page turned novel has been read or not. I have however, turned to ebooks for most of my school books. I know that seems odd since that means I can’t resell it but it’s super convenient, allows me to search through the book for words and subjects with the click of a button (which is a huge help when doing homework), and of course allows me to take my book anywhere without… Read more »

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