Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Credit where it’s due

If you’ve been reading this blog (or the paper), you probably know how I feel about Labyrinth. The blue linoleum floors just don’t do it for me, the textbook policy drives me insane, and it rather peeves me that their “two shelves of Italian books” were 80% empty (not to mention the fact that they didn’t have This Side of Paradise in stock). That said, as much as it may pain me, I must admit that Labyrinth is not the worst thing to happen to Princeton since they decided not to make it the nation’s capital. Or something really, really bad.

Like most things, Labyrinth does have some redeeming features, as I do believe I noted in the opinion piece cited (or is it linked?) above.

Heck… I went there the other day looking for a book, and it was actually a really nice shopping experience. For all of its flaws, Labyrinth does have a rather nice collection of academic texts. I went in the other day looking for a book someone had recommended on the Spanish Civil War, and lo-and-behold, it was there, very easily found living in the Modern European History section filed under the author’s name. There were two copies, both in slightly-less-than-stellar shape (one had a black line drawn over the pages, the other one had a folded cover—I went with the one with the line), but reasonably priced. (Oddly enough, one was marked at 22.50 and the other at 22.49—here’s a Labyrinth tip: look at the prices of different copies; I have in the past found the same exact book priced at 7, 8, and 20 dollars, all in a row.)

There was another book which I wanted by the same author, but it was no where to be found, so I did the reasonable thing and asked for help. The lady was busy, so she just very reasonably told me where I should look for the book (Modern European History, filed by author—where I was looking). Like a good little kinder I went back to look, and returned to tell her that the book was still MIA. So, the second time around she went back to look for it. Surprise! It did not magically materialize on the bookshelf. (Shelved books is one thing I understand rather well…) She very kindly offered to order the book for me, but I told her I was leaving soon and that I wouldn’t be able to pick it up.

I went back to the shelf to look for another book (I found a nice one for which I wasn’t looking). A few minutes later, the woman appeared again, bearing the book; it turns out that it’s part of a special series (OUP’s Very Short Introductions) and that therefore it was shelved in a different section of the bookstore. This dedication to the quest was a very pleasant surprise. I was even more pleasantly surprised (well, amused is more like it) when I discovered that the book was printed upside down. I showed her and since they didn’t have any non-defective copies, I got a 25% discount on the book.

She rang me up and the books came up to about 50 bucks, so the 20% discount was nice (not as nice in the long run as the U-Store discount on text books of course…)

All in all, I have to concede that I’ve had a generally good experience with finding the academic books I needed at Labyrinth. (Earlier in the year I had been able to buy a book which Firestone didn’t have available.) The exception was when they didn’t have Jerome Karabel’s The Chosen, which I was able to get at the public library.

Unfortunately, I never bought academic books at the U-Store, so I really don’t have a guide for comparison, but still, Labyrinth does do a very good job with academic books which you wouldn’t necessarily find at your local Barnes and Noble.

So there, I said it, something nice about Labyrinth. Let’s see how they handle textbook sales come September. 