9 Thoughts About College Bookstores

Every college has a bookstore, but think about yours — what was the ratio of books to other crap? The first college I went to was in a small city and the school had a bunch of mini-convenience stores, so the bookstore ended up selling fairly traditional stuff: notebooks, pens, and books. The second college I went to was in a tiny town, so it was more or less open to the public and was in charge of basically selling anything that needed selling.

The second scenario seems to be a pretty standard one on American college campuses. It also seems pretty typical that students forget the bookstore is there to sell books (yes, you're actually supposed to buy the book your professor wrote), not just toothbrushes, batteries and Vera Bradley wristlets. And speaking of which, can we cool it on those?

Thinking back on the college bookstore, it really was a special, special place. A clothing store with no dressing rooms? A staff that eyed you curiously constantly? Overpriced books for miles? And who actually bought all of those things? Whatever you were thinking when you when inside your bookstore, you weren't alone. I promise.

No dressing room!?

We all know college bookstores are just glorified sweatshirt warehouses, so why not throw in at least a little space for the trying on of things? I remember how mortified I was as a high school pipsqueak when my parents suggested I try on a sweatshirt before they nicely shelled out $50 for it. Had the bookstores been equipped with a little private area, I would’ve happily obliged.

Who are the people that work there?

The people who worked in my college bookstore were mostly middle-aged women in aprons, and I always wondered how they found themselves there. Did they know someone who knew someone? Where did they come across the job listing? Did they feel like part of the school community or was their allegiance with Barnes and Noble?

….And do they hate me?

I regularly would hit up the bookstore for my daily doses of cola and cup of noodles, and every day I felt less and less proud of myself as I shuffled in, be-Ugged and greasy and pushing Pepsi across the counter. Sometimes I’d get a superfluous laundry detergent bottle or pack of pens to look more balanced but their looks of contempt could not be hidden and I assumed they knew I was cutting class AND gaining weight.

Everything is for free!

Or at least it feels like that when the bookstore accepts those student IDs with a prepaid amount on them. A sweatshirt? Two please! A Nalgene or three? Charge it! But those IDs are not legal tender in the real world, and would only remind me of my brokenness when I would venture off campus.

Wait, this place is open all year?

Yes! I know, it’s shocking, but the bookstore IS open besides during the first and last weeks of the semester when you buy textbooks.

Who buys all this junk?

Fountain pens, penants, those really gross-feeling fleece blankets, weirdo paperweights — you can find just about ANYTHING with a school logo on it, but does anyone actually buy any of that? Between the two colleges and one grad school I went to, I have only a pair of boxers and a mug, and I have literally no memory of buying either one.

…And why do they sell those Vera Bradley card holders?

I don’t know, I wish I knew, but if we stop buying them then they’ll stop selling them. It’s up to us, guys.

Don’t puke! Don’t puke! Don’t puke!

The bookstore/glorified food mart was the place to be every hungover morning for me and my pals, and I can’t even count the amount of times I almost gagged by the toiletries aisle as I headed for the Gatorade.

Whoa, so many books!

I know, right? Who are they for, those books that aren’t in the textbook section? THEY’RE FOR YOU! Have fun learning!

images: tulanesally, junglejims /flickr; giphy (4)