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University bookstores find ways to survive

By Zhao Tong (People's Daily Online)    17:30, October 28, 2019

People read at the Xinhua bookstore in Jiangsu Normal University. (Photo/An Le)

Spending hours perusing campus bookstores is a precious memory for many college graduates. But in recent years, the popularity of digital reading and e-books has impacted the survival of many on-campus bookstores.

"Universities can't do without bookstores. Bookstores are an important part of campus history and culture. Without bookstores, a university is not complete," said Zhang Lei, an expert in the publishing industry.

Competing with new methods

With the in-depth development of nationwide reading, the lack of bookstores to cultivate cultural atmosphere attracted the attention of the government.

In July this year, the Ministry of Education issued a guideline to support the development of bookstores on campus, which requires "all colleges and universities to have at least one brick-and-mortar campus bookstore."

Thanks to the policy, universities may be able to welcome back more brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Since 2016, many bookstores have entered universities in new ways.

In Xuzhou University of Technology's bookstore, readers can choose books from the "optional reading area." Then, the book is sent to the school library automatically, where the students can then borrow it. In just one year, more than 8,000 books have been borrowed in this way.

Difficulties unique to the campus

An earlier survey by the Ministry of Education showed that more than half of universities do not have bookstores, and a quarter of all campus bookstores have closed in the past three years.

Campus bookstores are generally small in size, and many of them do not have independent legal status, so it is difficult to apply for government loans or support funds.

In addition, the campus bookstore has some disadvantages compared with those outside the university. For example, every summer and winter vacation, the number of visitors drops sharply, meaning many campus bookstores only open for 9 to 10 months every year.

In response to these difficulties, the guideline stipulates that universities should actively provide favorable conditions, such as giving discounts on rent, utilities and other daily operating expenses, and giving rewards to bookstores that serve teachers and students over a long period.

Finding its way

A bookstore in Beijing Language and Culture University has done well in recent years, increasing its profit by five times to 1 million yuan in just five years. The bookstore manager Cheng Zhou said that they could not compete with online bookstores when it comes to discounts, but they do have their advantages. For example, they have a full variety of books, specializing in foreign language teaching books. They also have a unique activity. Readers who come before 10:30 am can enjoy a 30 percent discount, which not only solves the problem of small passenger flow and low sales volume in the morning, but also solves the problem of concentrated passenger flow at noon.

At present, encouraged by the policy, the enthusiasm to build campus bookstores is on the rise. Zhang noted that these campus bookstores should use their strengths and keep in line with university spirit.

"Campus bookstores should not be the same, nor should they become a second campus library," he added.

In his opinion, an excellent campus bookstore should become a space for university students to grow beyond their dormitory, classroom and library, allowing them to "gain spiritual growth in the bookstore."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Zhao Tong, Hongyu)

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