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Labyrinth will no longer supply books for Princeton courses

A storefront with a blue awning and multicolored books behind a glass window.
Labyrinth Books, the University-affiliated bookstore on Nassau St.
Julian Gottfried / The Daily Princetonian

After 17 years, Princeton’s coursebook partnership with local independent bookstore Labyrinth Books is coming to an end.

Starting this summer, coursebooks will be supplied through the online retailer eCampus. According to the University and Labyrinth, the split was a mutual decision. Some students, though, expressed disappointment with the switch, as well as surprise. At publication time, there has not been a formal, publicized announcement issued to the University community.


Many students head to Nassau Street at the start of each semester to purchase coursebooks through Labyrinth at a 30 percent discount, which they can return for a full refund during the two-week add/drop period and sell back to the bookstore at the end of the semester.

“The change was based on our mutual agreement that our long-standing system no longer made sense for the store or for the University,” University Spokesperson Jennifer Morrill wrote in a statement to The Daily Princetonian.

A press release from Labyrinth sent to the ‘Prince’ noted that the bookstore would shift its focus to expand its “used and antiquarian holdings.” They also hope that the shift will allow the downstairs area to include “more flexibly sized event areas, and smaller meeting spaces, as well as remodeled displays and inviting seating.”

eCampus offers new books, used books, ebooks, and rentals. Students will still be able to sell books back, but the University did not directly respond to a question about how buy-backs will operate through eCampus. The new website states “More information about this program will be available soon” at the time of publication. Students will still be able to sell textbooks from the 2023–24 school year back to Labyrinth until June 15.

Books for summer programs will be available online for purchase starting May 1 and Fall semester coursebooks will be available beginning August 1. Students can order books to any shipping address.

Princeton University Mail Services processes roughly 20 percent of the packages they receive annually between late August and September, reflecting the high volume of incoming mail during move-in. The University did not directly respond to a question about whether the new coursebook system could further delay Mail Services processing times in Frist Campus Center at the start of the semester, although Morrill did write, “It should be noted that eCampus stocks and houses its own inventory in a state-of-the-art distribution center, offers free 2-day expedited shipping to Campus and has a vast selection of digital resources, as well as providing a guaranteed book buyback price for students displayed on selected titles at the time of checkout.”


The University also did not directly respond to a question about the environmental impact of switching to a coursebook delivery system.

When asked about the transition and potential renovation process, Labyrinth co-owners Dorothea von Moltke and Cliff Simms noted that “the timeline is uncertain, will depend on finances, and may necessitate store closures at different moments.”

The partnership between Labyrinth and the University dates back to 2007. Simms was quoted in a University article upon the beginning of this partnership, saying “Princeton University has taken the changing bookselling landscape in town as an opportunity … to help ensure that there will still be an independent, community bookstore on Nassau Street and that it can meet the University’s own book-related needs, including course books, as effectively and economically as possible.” 

Labyrinth believes that the bookstore will still serve a crucial role in University and town community even after the conclusion of this 17-year-long partnership.

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“In continuing to support a post-coursebooks Labyrinth, the University is reiterating the conception it had articulated when they invited Labyrinth to Princeton in 2007: to support a bookstore that serves the needs of both the University and larger community by offering a rich selection of books and program of events,” Labyrinth's press release continued.

Von Moltke and Simms noted in a separate statement to the ‘Prince’ that the split may have an impact on staff, stating that “approximately a third of our overall revenue has come from coursebook sales. Without coursebook rushes and the preparations, which include receiving, handling, shelving thousands of books, and the labor of returning books to publishers when they don’t sell, we are now in the process of assessing how many fewer people in different areas of the store we will need.”

Labyrinth Books has made recent headlines due to its workers’ unionization in January, which the store's ownership ultimately supported. Still, employees have protested ongoing challenges such as “understaffing and intimidation.” Currently, employees and management are engaged in collective bargaining.

In a statement to the ‘Prince,’ Labyrinth Books employee Elise Agnor wrote that “Labyrinth Books claims to be pro-union but they are operating in a way that undermines the Union, and the news about Labyrinth’s contract with Princeton is a prime example.”

She continued, “The Union is focused on trying to negotiate a fair and equitable contract; if management actually wants to be considered a pro-union employer, they should act like it and come to the table to negotiate over any changes to status quo, which they failed to do adequately and accurately here.” 

Another employee of the store, Meg O’Brien, wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince’ that the news of potential staffing impacts was unexpected, and that “sharing this news with the local newspaper before the terms and conditions of any potential layoffs have been agreed to at the bargaining table is disrespectful to the workers.” She also stated that Labyrinth’s management “must maintain status quo within the store until such a time that an agreement has been reached and ratified.”

The University indicated that the changes come in part as a result of shifting demand from students.

Morrill noted that surveys of faculty and students conducted in 2023 “indicated increasing demand for digital materials and need for flexibility in assigning readings as the semester progresses,” which also factored into the decision.

Indeed, the owners of Labyrinth told the ‘Prince’ that “Post [COVID-19], coursebook sales have dropped by 50 [percent] from 2019. However, the number of books ordered by faculty remained fairly steady-state. COVID-19 accelerated the availability of most course materials in the form of free PDFs. Ordering, receiving, stocking, and returning unsold coursebooks have demanded the [repurposing] of staff and space for [five] months of each year, but with no sustainable returns on investment.”

Dean of the College Jill Dolan notified faculty of the switch to eCampus at the end of March. Morrill noted that students will receive relevant information over the summer.

As the change has not yet been announced to the student body, all the students interviewed by the ‘Prince’ for this piece were not yet aware of the change, although the new coursebook landing page has been live since at least March 29, according to Internet Archive.

“This is a travesty,” was the initial reaction of Maia Weintraub ’25 upon hearing the news. Although she noted eCampus could potentially be a convenient option, she said, “I just kind of like the feel of going to a real life bookstore and picking up books, and it kind of takes the fun out of it” to order books online.

Although Sharon Leonard ’27 does not envision that the switch will have a major impact on her, she told the ‘Prince’ that she was “surprised because [she] thought that Labyrinth and Princeton had a really strong connection.”

Samuel Kligman ’26 told the ‘Prince’ that he believes the switch in providers should prompt further changes from the University, saying the change is “a major inconvenience and it should already spur the University into subsidizing our books.”

The coursebooks website states that professors must submit textbook orders by April 30 for summer programs and by May 31 for Fall semester classes. “The May deadline for Fall 2024 book adoptions is earlier than usual in an effort to get faculty and staff to start using the new tool before the summer break so we can provide sufficient support and training to all who need it,” Morrill wrote to the ‘Prince.’

“We value Labyrinth’s long service as the University’s textbook provider,” Dolan wrote to the ‘Prince,’ “and we are excited to support our town’s beloved bookstore as it invests in its more targeted scholarly mission.”

Editor's note: this piece has been updated to include Labyrinth employee Meg O’Brien’s comment.

Annie Rupertus is a head News editor for the ‘Prince.’

Christopher Bao ’27 is an assistant News editor and the accessibility director for the ‘Prince.’ He is from Princeton, N.J. and typically covers town politics and life.

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]