A single black and white photo tells the story vividly. Every person in the picture is intently focused - heads are lowered, faces are serious. The black-and-white image, dated 1963, shows a line of six young students leaning over a scarred wooden counter that is laden with piles of books. An electric adding machine, with its coiled roll of paper, sits next to one student's elbow. The boys are dressed in Oxford shirts, jackets and ties; all are clean cut and remarkably serious. They face, on the counter's other side, two women who also give their work full concentration. A clue to their purpose can been seen above the hunched-over heads of the clerks: long, tiered shelves of books. It is a new term at Philips Academy! These students, like countless others before and after them, have made the trek down the hill to buy textbooks at the Andover Bookstore. Scores of students can recall the anticipation, camaraderie, even the seemingly endless lines that have long heralded the start of a new term. Text sales at "the Bookstore" are a tradition older than Gunga himself.
Inexplicably, this venerable practice has come to an end. After more than two hundred years as PA's bookstore, Phillips Academy has suddenly decided to hand textbook sales over to an online vendor. The decision deals a devastating financial blow to the bookstore. Despite two centuries of tradition, the school provided no rationale for their decision. Nor was the process publicized. Students and faculty, told of the change, have expressed both surprise and displeasure.
Support for the bookstore, a locally-owned, independent business has been strong among those who appreciate the highly personal service they receive. Longtime store owner Bob Hugo and his son John (PA '98) are not certain that the business will survive the elimination of text sales. For now, at least, Phillips Academy faculty may continue to read from their newly published books in front of the store's fireplace, and students will still venture down to check out the "next big thing" in Young Adult literature, but for how long? Certainly, those with the power to make such distant yet immediate decisions didn't intend to jeopardize the future of one of Andover's most cherished establishments. But, in fact, they have. NOW is the time to support the bookstore - an irreplaceable anchor of our town's commere and culture.