Teachers, students look past campus textbook store

By Liora Barba

As increasing numbers of students buy books from discount web sites like half.com and purchase used texts from classmates, faculty members are also beginning to look beyond the campus bookstore.

Instead of placing an order with Macalester’s textbook store, History professor Shari Geistfeld ordered her course materials directly from Amazon Bookstore, a feminist co-op in Minneapolis and one of the oldest feminist bookstores in the nation.

In addition to buying from Amazon, Geistfeld has in the past ordered textbooks from other local independent booksellers, such as May Day and the Resource Center of the Americas.

“There is a monopoly with all of the big, corporate bookstores, and they decide what is getting published,” Geistfeld said. “For me, a really big part of supporting these independent bookstores is just helping them stay open.”

Bankrupcy of independent booksellers is an issue that Macalester recently faced, when Ruminator Books, an independent store on Grand Ave., closed in 2004.

Geistfeld said the store’s closing only shows how important it is to support independent booksellers.

Many students seem to be thinking along the same line, and are happy to support a store like Amazon. Ellie Erickson ’09, one of Geistfeld’s students, said that no students in her class were against the idea of buying books from an independent bookstore.

“The only thing students were against,” she said, “was the price.”

Carson Gorecki ’09, who took a course from Geistfeld last semester, agreed.

“Nobody had a problem with buying the books from Amazon,” he said, “but a few seemed pretty concerned that it would cost them more money.”

Political science professor Sarita Gregory also chose to forgo the campus bookstore in favor of supporting a local, independent bookseller. “It’s important for us to protect our independent book providers,” Gregory said.

She also noted that the prices were comparable to what the Macalester bookstore charges. And after taking a look around Macalester’s bookstore, Gregory said she became more interested in looking at other options.

No rule prohibits professors from buying books elsewhere, but Doug Rosenberg, head of business services, questioned why professors turn away from the bookstore.

“My question is,” Rosenberg said, “why not use the bookstore that we have?”

Macalester bookstore manager Carey Starr also highlighted the value of having a bookstore on campus.

“We’re not the bad guys,” she said. “We know that we are not the only place where students are getting books, and we know that they are concerned about cost.”

Geistfeld, however, was quick to point out that students, not the bookstore, are her first concern.

“I don’t want to make it inconvenient or stressful for the students,” she said.

“It’s not against the Macalester bookstore, it’s just looking at the bigger picture and being a part of the larger community. Who controls the book market affects us all.”