The closure of a half-century-old university bookstore in Ireland is raising questions about the propriety of lecturers posting class notes on-line, the Bookseller reports. The chairman of a UK academic publishing-industry lobby group claims the practice harms academic booksellers.
The Bookshop at Queens, at the Queen’s University Belfast, has been in business for 53 years, but has hit tough times and is closing while it is still above water.
Tim Smyth, manager of the Queen’s bookshop, said the bookseller wanted to close before it "fell below the line". He also blamed internet competition and free sites such as Google Scholar and Wikipedia for a decline in custom. He said: "I don’t know how [independent booksellers] can do it anymore. Certainly the academic model has reached a tipping point now: it is unsustainable."
With its traditional high prices and low margins, academic publishing has been in trouble for some time now. Students often balk at the prices of textbooks and can resort to practices such as rentals, textbook sharing, photocopying, and, more recently, Internet e-book piracy to stretch their budgets, and that’s leaving aside the practice of online note-posting and university course reserves that use copyrighted materials.
Clearly, the academic publishing industry needs to get its business model straightened out. If academic publishers and bookstores fail, what might it mean for the university education process?