Fordham University English Department Boycotting B&N

by Rachel Baker on February 16, 2011

The Fordham University English Department plans on boycotting Barnes and Noble for the Fall 2011 semester.  According to the article found on the Fordham University website:

Last Wednesday Feb. 9, members of the English department voted to boycott the University Bookstore, operated by Barnes & Noble, during the fall 2011 semester. The vote was nearly unanimous, with two abstentions, and came in the wake of complaints from faculty and students about the bookstore’s practices. The English department will ask that faculty teaching English courses, including adjunct professors and graduate students, refrain from ordering textbooks for their classes next semester.

The most serious grievances include:

the bookstore’s policy of cutting book orders, its frequent tendency to order the incorrect editions of texts, its failure to notify professors of the status of their textbook orders and the difficulty of finding books in the store.

Further on in the article, there is the statement:

The boycott is anything but an attempt to attack print culture, though it may encourage e-substitutes

Prior to this statement its stated the English Department still feels like printed books are the best option.

Let’s think about this though for a moment.

In today’s technologically savvy world, why not just make a major play for all text books in eReader format?  Economically, this would be a good thing for every student at every college or university.

These books could be loaned to students for a minimal fee, which would not decrease the value of the electronic text book, AND all the notes and highlights in a book could be used by the future semester students.  If a student chose to buy a book, they could; but let’s be honest, how many students sell their books back at a decreased rate because they need the money to buy the next semester books.

Additionally, updates for new editions could be done via monthly, yearly updates and the publishing cost would significantly decrease.

eReaders are extremely inexpensive compared to buying a semester worth of books – and its a one time purchase for the most part.  Taking the stress of coming up with the unbelievable amount of money needed to buy books would greatly enhance a student’s experience because rather than working three jobs to pay for books, housing, and tuition, they’d be able to put the excess money towards housing and tuition; and life would be fiscally easier for the average college student.

Am I saying all college books should be free?  Well, in my Utopian world, yes, they should.  However, I know this is not realistic.  A small fee for a loaned text book from the college library, or a discounted price on a text book because it didn’t have to be published in the traditional printed format would suffice.

I’m not sure this would be a good option for Fordham University as they have a contract with Barnes and Noble to run their college bookstore through June 2017.  Unfortunately, I think this may only be the start of a big shift on college campuses regarding how students acquire and use text books.  In fairness to Barnes and Noble – if they have multi-year contracts with many of the colleges and universities around the contract, this may become a big challenge for them as well – if more students are buying ebook text books, they will certainly lose money on the text book sales aspect of their college campus book stores.

The benefits of owning an eReader really is outweighing the benefits of print books for more than just the average person who reads as a hobby.  There are many benefits to introducing an eReader into our daily lives; the biggest one in my opinion though is its so much more economically friendly than traditionally published books (read printed as a paperback or hardback). The text book industry, as an example, for decades have been making a killing on student’s who want an education; and for many people, college really isn’t affordable without a lifetime of student loan debt. It would be a great benefit if students didn’t have to fork out as much for their books each semester.

I really think the ebook phenomenon is in a fascinating stage of its evolution.  I’m watching with great interest to see how integrated our society becomes with eReaders and how this will affect the traditional publishing houses and the textbook segments of the industry.

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