Friday 18th November saw the closure of the doors to the Alexandra Square branch of Waterstone’s (the campus’s only bookshop) for the last time. It’s not terribly surprising considering the financial state and changing ownerships of the chain itself – a small campus branch, while useful, isn’t going to be able to outlive those kinds of pressures. It seems to be a sign of the times that bookshops are closing – anyone remember Borders?
“But who cares about a bookshop on campus, I could just use the Internet?” some might say, an understandable attitude to have. It is true that as the weeks of Michaelmas dwindle away anyone who is unfortunate enough to need to buy more textbooks can probably manage to order online and await their arrival. But let’s be honest, the Sunday just before lectures start ought to be prime time for those books to fly off the shelves, raking in a good profit for any campus bookshop. After all, there are hoards of fresh-faced freshers needing those invaluable sources of knowledge (or a decent doorstop if you’re purchasing a literature anthology, just saying) and needing them stat before lectures begin. They’ve probably already braved the library, realised other enthusiastic students have nabbed all the key course books, looked for the online e-book option and then realised a good ol’ paper copy would be best.
Okay so by buying at an actual branch, you might not save the couple of quid you might if you bought a used copy online but, equally, you don’t have to wait or pay for delivery; you have it right there, shiny and new, in your very hands, ready to read – or ready to shove on your bookshelf with the intention to ‘read it at some point’! For sheer convenience (or rather an aid to laziness), a bookshop on campus is indispensable, especially for anyone who doesn’t fancy braving Lancaster on their first weekend in order to shop for textbooks. The campus bookshop’s staff can usually point you straight in the direction of which book(s) you need as soon as you step through the door and mention your course, another clear advantage of the old campus Waterstone’s over the alternatives in town.
That’s why I think it’s a shame to see the branch close, despite the two other Waterstone’s branches that Lancaster boasts. It may have seemed like an insignificant addition, an indulgence even, to campus most of the time – just something you casually glanced at while crossing Alexandra Square or heading to the library – but its closure, I think, ought to make people realise its value. “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone” seems appropriate right now.