Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 5. March 30, 1950
A Stud. Ass. Bookshop
A Stud. Ass. Bookshop
M.D.'s suggestion of a co-operative bookshop to import and sell textbooks at cost is at first sight an attractive one. The sale of dozens of standard textbooks looks easy. But what of the other side?
1. It is true that booksellers do not at present carry the stocks necessary for good service. Reason? Mainly a general post-war discrimination to carry warehouse stocks, typical of most businesses. Shortage of supplies overseas, and the dead hand of import restrictions are also to blame. This means an automatic profit on all books, with a minimum of loss on out-of-date or shop-soiled copies. But trading conditions are coming back to normal, and service is improving each year.
2. What is Victoria's textbook business worth? My guesstimate is £4000 p.a. for new books (2000 students doing two new subjects at £3 is £12,000. Divided by three years' use equals £4000). The management would be too onerous for students, yet £4000 turnover would not support a paid staff. Remember that the good work of the S.C.M. Second-Hand Bookstall does not cover ordering, nor does it have to carry over stocks from year to year.
3. The textbook business is so seasonal that we would have a room set aside for it, and with stock locked up unused for about 10 months of the year. Commercial booksellers work this in with other seasonal sales such as Christmas cards. We would strike to a far greater degree our great problem of an eight-months working, four-months closed Caf.
4. "With the co-operation of the college staff" is easy—on paper. The staff naturally leave the setting of books as late as possible, for a variety of reasons, some valid, some less valid. It is surely naive to expect that the establishment of a college bookshop would effect a sudden transformation.
5. How would we fare for publishing texts by New Zealand authors? If we took to ourselves the main student book business, could we set up as printers and publishers, too? I think not.
Further, we could not expect to buy textbooks from commercial sellers if we were out of stock at Victoria—the booksellers would no longer bother at all about advanced texts, which are a nuisance to them at any time.
6. Finally, it is the writer's view that businesses of this kind are best left to commercial houses. The cafeteria has been sufficient financial worry—and it we must have. Too often are we dependent on the well-intentioned work of students like M.D., who continue to promise books at two-thirds of their present price, after stating the present "profits" to be 25 per cent to 50 per cent Such a reduction is possible only when the mark-up is 50 per cent, and takes no account of salaries, rent, losses on stock, or bad debts.