Buying Local: Bookstore

By Mallika Mitra


Does the popular K ideology behind buying local apply to the Kalamazoo College Bookstore?

Do you find it important to support local businesses? If you are a student at Kalamazoo College, you have probably been encouraged to support many of Kalamazoo’s local businesses. But do you support one of the local businesses right on campus: the Kalamazoo College Bookstore?

“I know that a lot of students on campus, especially (when it comes to) food, find that buying locally means a lot to them,” said Debbie Thompson, the Director of the Kalamazoo College Bookstore.

Despite the talk of supporting all things local, Thompson said the bookstore has actually seen a decrease in the amount of books being purchased in the past six years as more resources are becoming available for students to buy their books.

According to Thompson, the bookstore has about 475 titles on the shelf and sells at least 5,000 books per quarter and began renting out books four years ago. She said that about 175 titles qualify as rentals and the bookstore rents out almost 700 books per quarter. Students can save up to 60 percent by renting books, Thompson said.

The bookstore has had fewer students selling their books back to the bookstore at the end of the quarter. This, Thompson said, is because students often sell their books to one another. The bookstore buys back about 1,000 books at the end of every quarter.

For example, Thompson explained that the Nebraska Book Company buys books back from the Kalamazoo College bookstore that the bookstore no longer wants, and sell them to other colleges. The Nebraska Book Company also takes back rental books at the end of the quarter.

“There aren’t a lot of products out there that you can buy and know you can sells back,” Thompson said. She added that by having students sell books back to the bookstore, they are able to put more used books on the shelf, which saves money for the next student to buy that book.

The bookstore’s main competitor is Amazon, Thompson said. She added that she understands students are looking for “alternative, cheaper sources.”

“I have heard of other (college) bookstores getting rid of their books and changing their name from ‘bookstore’ to ‘campus store’,” Thompson said. “I don’t think that will happen here.”

Thompson went on to explain the benefits of buying from the college bookstore: it is more accessible to students, students know they are getting the books they want, and there are return privileges, such as being able to return books if you drop a class.

People are often willing to spend a few extra dollars on the local pluses of the Kalamazoo area, whether it be for food or the arts. Showing support for the bookstore may be more costly, but you know where the money is going. It is also, as Thompson puts it, “supporting our College.”

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