Seattle Central College Bookstore, located across Seattle Central’s Broadway Edison Building, has been providing Seattle Central College students access to get textbooks more conveniently on campus for years. On February 4th, 2020, the Associated Student Council of Seattle Central (ASC) sent an email to students stating the forthcoming closure of Seattle Central College bookstore. The Barnes & Noble owned bookstore has not been turning a profit and declined to renew their lease.
Barnes & Noble owns the business, but the building itself belongs to Seattle Central. The multi-national company partnered with the district schools (North, Central, and South Campus), which allowed them to use Seattle Central College’s building, and pay the college a percentage of their sales. In January 2020, Barnes & Noble informed Seattle Central that they have been losing profits and they could not continue the current contract they have with Seattle Colleges.
Majority online-based bookstores like Amazon have placed a large amount of pressure on brick and mortar chains like Barnes & Noble, along with local businesses. The Barnes & Noble located downtown in Seattle’s Pacific Place shopping center was the second location to close in 12 months. For the past few years, Barnes & Noble has closed more than 150 stores throughout the state.
Due to financial stress, Barnes & Noble has been steadily increasing its prices to what many see as an unreasonable level, leaving people with limited budgets, like college students, to find ways around paying for overpriced textbooks. A growing trend on campuses, according to students, is the tendency to pirate books off the internet. With a lack of financial resources, a good torrent program means students can find most of their books online.
By continuing to pirate textbooks, students tend to use bookstores less and less. “I mean, it’s easier and cheaper.” said an anonymous student on Seattle Central campus. Some students still prefer hard copies of their texts, but even professors are moving away from asking their students to purchase the more expensive texts from the bookstore. They opt for free online course materials or photocopy packets from the copy center.
According to the ASC, the district was able to sign a new contract until July 31, 2021. This gives the colleges more time to discuss the impacts on students and faculty members on campus, leaving students approximately a year and a half to access the bookstore. The colleges are currently developing an accurate timeline and conducting studies on how the virtual bookstore could operate. Until the end of the lease, the campus bookstore will remain open but with possibly adjusted operating hours.
“Students should pitch in ideas for the future bookstore; it would be great if students could give us some light. Many departments on campus are already looking for ways to use the space. However, I hope they end up doing something for students instead of more offices,” said Camila Christensen, Executive of Administration of ASC. Recently, the Associated Student Council held events and meetings informing the closure of the bookstore, such as the Student Open Forum held on February 11, and the ASC meeting held on February 24. There will be further meetings and updates about the bookstore closure until the end of the lease – July 2021. Until then, students have approximately a year and a half to access the bookstore, and it is uncertain what will take its place.