Bookstore blues

Walking through the west entrance to the bookstore with its new pseudo renovations is like wandering through a wasteland of a post-apocalyptic school supplies. There are random piles of mismatched notebooks, multipacks of mechanical pencils, and foreign-made hoodies bearing our blessed Willy the Wolverine. It’s a little disheartening and feels more like entering a Salvation Army outlet than a university’s on-campus bookstore.

The east entrance, however, is substantially different. There’s always at least one security guard—I’ve seen up to three flitting about the Apple displays like armed hummingbirds. The white chain-link partitions that divide the checkout lines are supervised by a very nice woman (often in UVU garb, no less) who indicates precisely which register is ready to help you purchase your books. The carpets look clean, the displays are well-organized, and it generally runs with the efficiency of a Honda.

While half of an average bookstore experience (the east half, specifically) is nice and shiny and happy, the whole thing, when taken together, tips to the exploitative end of the spectrum. What’s with those Apple displays, anyway? First of all, how anyone can afford a dramatically overpriced $1,000 laptop (that, despite what some would tell you, can get viruses) when they have to pay $80 for the university-required Ethics and Values book? Or the $170 German book? Or a $92 copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare (available bound in leather at Borders for $20)?

In the overlooked 2001 movie Heist, Mickey Bergman (played by the world’s greatest little person, Danny DeVito) tells his partner, “Everyone loves money. That’s why they call it money.” This extends to the bookstore and those in charge of it, and not unreasonably. Higher profits, including incentives from Apple for placing almost offensively prominent displays of Mac computers, could very well mean a better-run establishment and improved customer experience, as well as additional jobs for the students that primarily staff it.

But even considering that, something is rotten in the state of Denmark; pricing on certain essential core books that can be described at best as inflated and at worst as eye-gouging. There exists a constant stock of completely non-academic products like the eternally present $9.99 used DVDs and the never-dwindling supply of Ed Hardy posters. What can be done?

Nothing. Nothing can be done. Sure, you can buy your used books online, but shipping is unreliable and most classes require readings within the first session or two of class. What it comes down to is that you’re either at a financial disadvantage or an academic one. Call me fatalistic — I won’t shrug off the label — but any dissenting against this ridiculous system, including the entirety of this article, is completely futile and that’s time I need to work to make enough money to afford the $300 of textbooks required for this semester’s course load.

A good friend once broke up with his girlfriend because she thought that protesting made a difference. I wonder where they each bought their textbooks last semester.

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