Ditch the University Bookstore


Tomorrow is the last chance to participate in the ASM book swap. Drop your books off at Gordon Commons, Room A2 between 10:30 and 3 p.m.

But even if that doesn’t work out, and you haven’t already bought your books online, and you’ve resigned yourself to being ruthlessly ripped off yet again, consider spending your money somewhere besides the University Bookstore. Many people don’t know that there are multiple stores in Madison that sell textbooks, and many of them have much more to offer than over-priced books and Bucky apparel.

I’m not talking about the Underground Textbook Exchange. As far as I know (and that’s not much) that place only exists to keep the University Bookstore honest. The price difference is rarely more than a matter of cents, and the store doesn’t offer anything interesting in addition.

I would encourage you to check out one of the independent bookstores. If for no better reason than to talk to people who will have some (or at least claim to have some) wild stories about the Madison of yore. That’s one of the benefits of visiting a store that sells a product which interests nobody below the age of 40.

Room of One’s Own Feminist Bookstore and the Rainbow Books Co-Op are such places. The feminist/leftist buzzwords can cause nausea after too long a time, but both places offer pieces of history and culture that make places like Madison interesting.

Those are two places to go for textbooks; there are still more places to go for literature or humanities courses. Much of your required reading for liberal arts courses can be found at Paul’s, Avol’s or Browzers. Of course, that’s only if you insist on spending money. Memorial Library has still more.

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6 Responses to “Ditch the University Bookstore”

  1. jaimiec Says:

    YES! Thank you for saying this. I bought most of my books off of Amazon.com and they were much cheaper. Granted, most of my books were just regular books, not really textbooks, but nonetheless, I saved money and didn’t support the bookstore’s ridiculous prices. I still have a couple more books to buy, so I will have to check other places first.

  2. Kenneth Burns Says:

    Feminism and leftism interest nobody below the age of 40?

    • Jack Says:

      No, I meant that books interest nobody below the age of 40.

      The interest generation y has for feminism and leftism is a whole other discussion, albeit one I am interested in having.

  3. Kenneth Burns Says:

    Oh. What are books?

  4. Michael Says:

    Do more research on the origins and current status of the University Book Store. It is the only independent textbook store in Madison. The store is a trust comprised of students, faculty, alumni, and book store staff. The Underground (Nebraska Book Company) and Beat The Bookstore (Miami) are owned by out of state businesses. As a former employee I know they have given much back to the students in scholarships and aid.

  5. SaW Says:

    I second Michael’s comment — the University Book Store is a non-profit co-op from what I understand. The prices they charge are driven mainly by what they are charged by the publishers plus their overhead. Exorbitant textbook prices have much more to do with publishers-set prices for textbooks than they do with retail markups. Amazon can charge less because they are the Walmart of online sales with HUGE sales and very, very low overhead per book sold. If you want brick-and-mortar bookstores to go out of business, then go ahead, buy all your books from Amazon.

    Also, students (and faculty) should be aware that most textbooks are inherently unfairly priced, because the free market is not operating. Read here for much more on the topic: http://siftingandwinnowing.org/2007/12/18/textbooks-and-the-free-market/

    One thing that might surprise many students is that that $140 chemistry textbook probably cost less than $10 to print. Again, it’s not the bookstore that sets the list price; it’s the publisher.

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