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Campus Bookstores in Canadian Universities

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Campus Bookstores in Universities in Canada

Most people think of the campus bookstore as a place to buy textbooks for courses. But nowadays many campus bookstores do much more than that. With the trend for many campuses to become a place of business for the public, the campus bookstore includes much more amenities and products for sale. Most campuses will have a bookstore on campus; the only ones that won’t are those that are primarily distance-education-based (ie. satellite campuses), or those schools that are primarily or exclusively online (eg. Meritus University, University of Fredericton, etc.).


This is what most people think of when they think of the campus bookstore. This is the primary place to buy used and new textbooks for courses. The larger institutions tend to have larger bookstores, due to the greater number of courses they offer and the greater need to house all those extra books. Textbooks are often arranged according to subject matter or course number, and book requirements are often listed next to the appropriate book so students know which texts and editions to buy. Old editions are sometimes offered for those students that don’t want to pay full price for the newer editions.

Used books

As many students don’t wish to keep their textbook after they have completed a particular course, there are often many used textbooks available. Many campus bookstores now offer a used textbook buy-back, sometimes throughout the year, sometimes only at the beginning of semesters.

Used textbook buy-back price is dependent on demand. Generally, if that same textbook is going to be reused in the upcoming semester, the bookstore will buy it back for 50% of its original price, condition-dependent. Often you don’t need the original receipt; all you have to do is show up with the actual textbook. If that textbook is not being used next semester, its price drops dramatically. If the textbook is being used next semester, but at another campus or location than where you are trying to sell it back, the buy-back price will usually be 30%.

If the bookstore won’t buy back your textbook for whatever reason (not in use for next semester, not in good condition, etc.), you can try to sell it privately. Many bookstores will also offer this service through their online website, here you can list and browse old editions of books.

Apparel and gift items

Along with actual textbooks, bookstores will also offer apparel with that school’s logo. Some bookstore will have quite extensive collections and comprise a significant percentage of sales. Campus bookstores also double as gift shops and a place to buy other school supplies. With the recent trend for communities to use campus space for public needs, bookstores now often include a café, similar to the trend of including cafés in Chapters outlets. This creates a “Starbucks” atmosphere, where patrons can buy and read books while enjoying a coffee or meeting with friends etc. Because the bookstore often serves this function, geographically the campus bookstore is often placed near the center of campus, next to the student union building or recreational center, with accessible parking or public transit for the visiting non-student public.

On-line ordering

With the advent of e-commerce, it’s no longer necessary to visit the bookstore in the vain attempt to find all your textbooks at once. Many bookstores now offer the option for students to create an account, login, and order all their books online at once. Generally the textbooks are delivered to the actual bookstore for pickup by the student, but some campuses will also offer delivery to another address (sometimes for a fee), especially if that campus lacks a bookstore (such as a satellite campus) in the first place. This is designed to ease the strain on students during the beginnings of semesters, when popular stock at the bookstore will often run out or not be available until later in the semester.

Faculty can also take advantage of a similar system. After deciding which textbooks are to be used for their particular course(s), faculty can use the bookstore’s online system to order dozens, or sometimes hundreds, of copies of that book and arrange to have them available for a particular date.

Computers and software

With the trend for electronic usage in the classroom, many of the larger bookstores will offer computers, software, and various electronics for sale. Some schools, like UBC, have their computer selection in their bookstore, while other schools, like U of T, have a separate, dedicated computer store. If you are a student looking to buy a laptop or software, you will save money by buying at your campus bookstore, where prices can be as much as 20% lower than commercial outlets.

Refund Policies

Given that many students will enroll in a course and then subsequently drop out, or a course will be cancelled due to low enrollment, most bookstores will have a very specific return policy. In most cases, if a textbook is to be returned for a 100% refund, it must be in perfect condition (this definition varies among schools, but generally highlighting, dog-earing, and missing accompanying software will disqualify it). It must also be returned by a certain date, generally within 5-10 days of a course being cancelled, or within 5-10 days of the drop-course date. Most times you have to provide proof in order to qualify for a full refund (eg. letter from the registrar). It’s best to check your bookstore’s return policy before buying, especially if you are ordering online.

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