Bookshelf decisions

Oh, you go to King’s? Isn’t that, like, a LOT of reading?
Yes, composite Dal student. Yes it is.

Oh, you go to King’s? Isn’t that, like, a LOT of reading?
Yes, composite Dal student. Yes it is. Those who make this awed observation are most likely referring to  FYP. And while the programs offered at King’s don’t stop there, it seems the school’s reputation is firmly rooted in the readings.
When it comes to shelling out for tuition, most of the tacked on fees are mandatory. But where students do have a choice is how they choose to obtain that all-important reading material.
Tucked away in the NAB, the closest option is the King’s Co-op Bookstore. Ever since it opened in 2006, customers who pay the one dollar membership fee have the ability to attend the annual general meeting, apply to be on the Board of Directors, and generally have a say in the way the store is run.

(Photo: Paul Rebar)

Most King’s students first encounter the bookstore in search of those oh-so-daunting FYP books, which the bookstore offers individually or in a package. First year FYP and journalism student Trent Erickson chose to get his books from the bookstore for the convenience.
“Instead of having to shop through Amazon and trying to find the right editions of each book, they’re just all in one package. Click it once and it’s all done, right away.”
Erickson, like many others, had his books waiting for him on campus on move-in day. The bookstore also offers to ship the package, or the first section, to students’ summer addresses.
Carolyn Gillis, bookstore manager, estimates that about 80 students bought their FYP books as a package this year.
“For those who do, we offer a contest: if you buy all your books by the end of September (for foundation year) then you have a chance to get entered in the contest and win your money back.”
A good incentive, seeing as the FYP book package is currently listed for $650, or $570 for science students.
Still, the bookstore’s independent status means that it isn’t always the most economical option. King’s size means that unlike the Dalhousie bookstores, the Co-op Bookstore is unable to offer book buyback or rental programs.
“Generally at the end of the year when people are wanting to sell their books, we’re broker than the students are,” says Gillis.
Students looking to save a few dollars where they can aren’t without other options.
“If I can’t find them for free online, I go by whatever the cheapest option is, so if it’s not used from another student it’ll usually be from Amazon,” says Gwendolyn Moncrieff-Gould.
Moncrieff-Gould is a third year student doing a combined honours in political science and contemporary studies. She says her professors have largely been understanding of students who choose to use PDF texts from sites like Project Gutenberg when available.
Many of the texts taught at King’s have entered the public domain and can legally be distributed at no charge. In Canada, copyright usually expires 50 years after the author’s death.
The issue with online editions, however, is that they’re not often the exact editions called for in the syllabus. And in the case of translations, discrepancies from version to version become that much more significant.
Using this year’s FYP books as a sample, what costs $650 in the Co-op Bookstore can be found for about $510 on Amazon. With conditions in place that they are the specified editions, Prime eligible and the cheapest concrete option, it does seem that Amazon can provide the majority of books needed for first year.
But it is not without its caveats. The specified edition of the Communist Manifesto was not available at all, while others like “The Waste Land” and Pride and Prejudice were only available for the Kindle. At times the Co-op Bookstore even proved to be the cheaper option; at $28 on Amazon, Augustine’s Confessions was over twice the price on offer in the basement of the NAB.
Ultimately, it’s a case of priorities. For Erickson, getting the correct physical copies was part of establishing a legacy.
“I want the books to have because it’s the start of my own library for the future. These are a good basis of books to always have.”
Moncrieff-Gould has a soft spot for the Co-op bookstore.
“It’s a nice environment, a nice thing to have. For me it is really price. There’s such a huge markup at the bookstore that I just can’t afford to buy all of my books there.”
In addition to offering the texts for King’s classes, the bookstore is able to make special orders if requested.
“If we can find it, we can order it for you,” says Gillis.
“Service, I think, is special. I hope that people feel that way!”

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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