Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The College Bookstore: Where Are the Friggin' Books?

 An LSU student, Kathryn Craddock, wrote a scathing critique of LSU's book store--operated, of course, by Barnes & Noble. 

"The colors are bland, the lighting is nauseating, and the inventory is full of tacky, overpriced LSU-themed junk," Craddock wrote in Reveille, the student newspaper. 

She said the bookstore's atmosphere shares more in common with a Walmart than an academic building. "I would even go far as to say that the building and its contents are creepy." 

Ms. Craddock's assessment of LSU's bookstore is absolutely correct. In fact, LSU's Barnes &Noble outlet doesn't even call itself a bookstore. The sign in front of the building simply says "Barnes & Noble at LSU."

Of course, the bookstore has a coffee shop where it sells Starbucks coffee--vile, overpriced stuff. But the store is really a souvenir and t-shirt shop. You can get an LSU t-shirt there for only $35 plus tax.  Or you can buy an LSU cap that will run you close to thirty bucks.

But books? Where are the friggin' books? As Ms.Craddock accurately described:

The LSU bookstore host shelves upon shelves of nightmares. There are the cheesy self-help books and celebrity memoirs with terrible attempts at relating to younger crowds.

I don't live far from LSU's Barnes & Noble, and I occasionally browse around the place. The store's textbook section is squeezed into a corner on the second floor--kinda hard to find.

The first floor is devoted to LSU-themed clothing, bric-a-brac, and--as Ms.Craddock attested, celebrity memoirs and self-help books. I recall seeing a self-help volume titled Taller, Slimmer, Younger--marked down to only a dollar.

I still remember the campus bookstore from my college days. Most of the store was devoted to textbooks, the ostensible purpose for being a college bookstore.

But the store also had a respectably-sized section devoted to fiction and literature. As a first-year college student from rural Oklahoma, I didn't know nothin' bout no literature, but I was attracted to a line of books with similar covers published by Scribner. I bought The Masters, a novel by C.P. Snow; Hemingway's Farewell to Arms; and F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night.

I chose these books on my own; they were not assigned to me for a college class. And I read them uncritically. 

But I only knew about these books because I stumbled upon them at Oklahoma State University's campus book store. 

LSU's Barnes & Noble has a small stock of fiction, and you might find something by Hemingway or Steinbeck. But if you buy an LSU-branded water bottle first, you probably can't afford to buy a good novel.

And who needs to read works of fiction anyway when you can buy a self-help book that will make you look taller, slimmer, and younger for only a buck?


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