Next semester, Penn students will no longer see “Penn Book Center” listed next to required texts on their syllabi.
The Penn Book Center sent an email Tuesday informing University faculty that this is the last semester it will be supplying students with course books. The email said that Penn Book Center has been carrying course books for more than five decades, since its opening in 1962.
The email, which carried a subject line “Textbook Change,” said the decision was made because the store has “seen a steady decline in ... coursebook sales and profitability over the past several years.” Ashley Montague and Michael Row, the store’s owners who signed the email, attributed this to the rise of Amazon and the recently installed Amazon@Penn on Locust Walk.
But they added that Penn Book Center will continue its commitment to both expand its collection and sale of “regular trade books,” noting that demand for those texts have been increasing recently. They will also feature more in-store programming such as poetry readings and discussions led by visiting writers, the email said.
Peter LaBerge, a College senior and self-described “serial-reader,” who has participated in and organized for local writers with the Penn Book Center said that while he is pleased that the store is increasing their trade book offerings and opportunities for local writers, he’s concerned that people will not shop there.
“So many people I know go there only to purchase books for courses,” he said.
But Jamie-Lee Josselyn, a creative writing instructor, said she feels confident that the Penn Book Center is making the right choice for its business.
But she did say many students go to the store strictly for course books, and she thinks it’s going to take “a more concerted effort or a more intentional efforts to go and visit regularly.”
She plans to encourage her students to buy the books they read on their own time from there.
Josselyn added that Penn Book Center’s policy of ordering books that they don’t have on their shelves for patrons who request them is particularly unique, putting them on more equal footing with online vendors.