Hensher 'ashamed' of Exeter over campus bookshop axe

The University of Exeter and Blackwell's have launched what is being called a "different model for academic bookselling", using textbook ordering online and a pop-up bookshop instead of a permanent campus bookstore.

However, Man Booker-shortlisted author Philip Hensher, who teaches creative writing at the university, has spoken out against the move, which leaves the campus without any permanent bookshop in which students can browse.

"I'm very disappointed and rather ashamed I now work for a university that has found no use for a bookshop," Hensher told The Bookseller. The author's novels include The Northern Clemency (Fourth Estate).

The University of Exeter's new £48m forum development, recently opened by the Queen, includes a new Student Services Centre and refurbished library. Until the development work began two years ago, Blackwell's had a permanent bookshop on campus. More recently, it had a temporary store.

However, Blackwell's now has just a desk in the centre, manned by a bookshop employee who will advise students and act as a collection point for orders.

A co-branded Blackwell and University of Exeter website, saying, "Welcome to the University of Exeter bookshop in association with Blackwell's", features links to reading lists and the university library catalogue, and allows students to order their textbooks online and take advantage of "exclusive" offers when purchasing complete reading lists.

Blackwell's is promising essential textbooks will be ready for collection within four hours, and non-essential textbooks will be available for pick-up within 24 hours.

David Prescott, m.d. of Blackwell, said some textbooks will be stored at a depository on the campus and others will be fulfilled by wholesalers' 24-hour delivery scheme. He said: "We will still have a pop-up campus bookshop a few weeks of the year at peak times. We have the same team, there have been no redundancies. We are having conversations with each university—what works for one might be very different to another. It is one different model for academic bookselling going forward." 

A University of Exeter spokeswoman said: "A four-hour turnaround for essential texts is a brilliant service, and the concept as a whole works well with the new building. It chimes in with the idea of efficient service, which the forum development is all about."