Thursday, June 02, 2011

I am shocked at the idea of a university without a bookshop. This may seem a bit strange after years of raving on about ebooks and wifi. But there is such a thing as balance. There could be more wifi and still something of a bookshop on the Exeter university campus.

But on a recent visit I found that Exepose, the student newspaper that can also be found through exepose,com , continues a campaign to object to the proposals for an online resource rather than a bookshop when the central retail part of the campus is open again in 2012. I was not sure that there might be some speculation in their reporting, even some alarm to get interest from readers. But they have sent me a press release from the Communication Manager - Corporate Services and it seems to be genuine.
The new Forum Shop ‘The Market Place’ will provide computer access for students to order books online and will provide a delivery and collection point for the service.

This will replace the current bookshop facility on campus and is expected to be introduced in January 2012.

There is even confidence that this is an improvement

Jilly Court, Deputy Director of Campus Services said, “Although the teams involved recognise the anxiety based around the changes in the mode of delivery of this service; it is certain that the new service will continue to serve the needs of research and education without detriment to the student experience.”

She added “We are very excited by the new retail zone in the Forum; The Market Place, which will deliver a whole new range of goods for the students and staff, one of which will be a focussed book service to meet the needs of the academic community in the future".

Apparently tenders are invited to provide the new service, which will also include a physical supply of set texts at the beginning of academic terms.

Well now, speculating, the tender list may include Waterstones and Blackwells. Blackwells had a campus bookshop before the improvements started. Waterstones have two shops in the city centre. Where did this decision come from? Have Blackwells or somebody else on this possible tender list already indicated whether or not a campus bookshop is a suitable investment at this time? There has been comment about HMV and the current Exeter stock of recorded music is not as comprehensive as it was. Will there be two Waterstones in the future?

After the London Book Fair before last Blackwells tried out an instant book machine on Charing Cross Road. Actually 24 hours usually to produce a paperback from any PDF or other digital source. There is now no chance of this happening in an Exeter Blackwells but something like it could be considered. there will always be some demand for hard copy. Maybe WH Smith could arrange something with local digital print companies? The discussion has to include local interests of all kinds.

A couple of other thoughts. What is this improvement about? I had thought that a bookshop was a central feature of a university. The campus space is now dramatic but has less in it. Who will this attract? And if there is no need for a bookshop why do they need a library? Going digital could solve all the problems of short supply. sudden return requests during the holidays etc that are also described in Exepose. Is there a plan about all this or is it just a surprise once the campus returns to normal after being a building site?

Don't get me wrong. Wifi is the future but is not just to be stumbled upon. Blended learning now has research backing so the book as in paper has to be part of the mix.

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