Bookstore brings students the world in its own words

Nathan Hall

Longing for a newspaper written in something other than boring old English? Prefer flipping through magazines from right to left rather than from left to right?

One solution to this consumer crisis might be the University’s Coffman Union bookstore, which is experimenting with the city’s third-largest selection of foreign-language newspapers and magazines.

Students and faculty said the foreign-language periodicals are a good supplement to textbooks and online resources.

Matthew Schneider, a junior German student, said he enjoys reading the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a German newspaper also available at his tutoring lab in Folwell Hall.

“Our library has a lot, but I usually pick up (glossy German newsweekly) Der Spiegel from the University bookstore,” Schneider said.

Amy Potvin, a University bookstore supervisor, said there is not much of a markup for magazines and newspapers, so the reason for the international offerings in Coffman was not profit-motivated.

“People asked us to, and this fills a need,” Potvin said. “This is a really low performer for the store; the only reason we stock this is as a service for the students, staff and faculty.”

Potvin said the University stocks around 30 foreign language periodicals – a variety of French, German, Spanish and Arabic. She said it is too soon to say which are selling well.

The demographic for the market is “older individuals rather than classes Ö faculty or just folks from the neighborhood,” Potvin said.

Potvin said her goal is for the store to eventually carry more international publications than Shinder’s and Dinkytown News, but it has a way to go before eclipsing the two other major Twin Cities suppliers.

Indra Patel, owner of Dinkytown News, said his store routinely has 120 titles that encompass French, Italian, German, Russian, Japanese and Spanish.

Patel said his newsstand used to supply University departments with international publications before the Coffman bookstore began selling them in March.

“The best days are when academic and medical conventions are in town,” Patel said. “The ‘U’-area hotels all have my number so they call in advance bulk orders if a large foreign tour group is coming in.”

Patel said the non-English side is a key part of his business and is hoping to eventually expand his family-run proprietorship with a new location at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Ann Leduc, a magazine and newspaper distribution manager for Shinder’s, said the number of international products vary among the 12 locations around the state but is usually between 50 and 100.

“That’s our best seller in the downtown location Ö if you include Japanese anime, comics and videos,” Leduc said. “We carry Spanish, German, Italian, French and Russian regularly and special-order other things in Norwegian or whatever else.”

Charlotte Melin, a German professor, said instructors use the Coffman bookstore to order a handful of German newspapers such as Die Zeit.

“We keep them in the (German, Scandinavian and Dutch) library and the students enjoy reading those, but there are many others online as well,” Melin said. “We use both.”