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June 10, 2012
Browsing On A Sunday: More Rutgers-Camden and Bookstores In 1931
The merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University may become a shotgun marriage after all. Despite opposition at both universities there is pending legislation that would operate Rutgers-Camden and Rowan as a partnership with a joint governing board. The legislation is further complicated by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark joining the Rutgers system. Some articles peg its debt load at $600 million. The Rutgers University system is at odds with the legislature over how to pay for these kinds of costs if the merger goes through.
One particular piece of fallout is the enrollment at the Rutgers-Camden law school. NorthJersey.com News quotes Dean Rayman Solomon providing figures of 1,174 applicants so far with 1,601 applicants at this same time next year. Law school applications are down generally, but Dean Solomon attributes the uncertainty of the proposed merger as a reason for the decline in applicants at Rutgers-Camden. The merger is seen as benefitting Rowan more than Rutgers. Rowan staff and faculty and staff will vote on a resolution opposing the merger. I have a feeling that in a clash of opinions between academics and politicians, that latter have most of the power.
The Atlantic has an article by Alexis Madrigal that gives some detail about the state of publishing and bookstores in 1931. He riffs on a book he is reading, Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America, written by Kenneth C. Davis and published in 1984. The book is about how the paperback caused major cultural and social changes when it appeared in the early 1930s. What surprises Madrigal is the book’s claim that there were only approximately 500 bookstores nationwide at the time with two-thirds of American counties having no bookstore at all.
The comments to the story are in many ways more interesting than the story itself. They describe inexpensive, popular and portable reading material available well before 1931. They also describe the many outlets for this material that aren’t bookstores, such as department stores, newsstands, travel depots, and general stores where paperbacks were sold. And then of course, where there weren’t bookstores there were libraries. The general reaction is that publishers may have catered to the reading elite, but the American public wasn’t starved for reading material or places to buy it. [MG]