Seminary Co-op

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The Seminary Co-op in September 2014
57th Street Books

Seminary Cooperative Bookstores, Inc., founded in 1961,[1] is a cooperative bookstore with two branches in Chicago. Its flagship, known colloquially as the Seminary Co-op or simply the Sem Co-op, is located at 5751 S. Woodlawn Avenue. Prior to October 2012, it was located a block away in the basement of the Chicago Theological Seminary, next to the campus of the University of Chicago, and stocked the largest selection of academic volumes in the United States throughout an extensive maze of shelves.[2]

The Co-op also operates 57th Street Books, also in the Hyde Park neighborhood, which stocks popular volumes. Profits are typically reinvested into the Co-op's reserve funds, as distribution of profits would be negligible.

The Co-op's reputation was so great that Columbia University invited manager Jack Cella to either open a branch in New York City or leave and open a new store there. Until the university gained its own neighborhood academic bookstore in the late 1990s, many Columbia scholars ordered books from the Co-op.[3] Currently, the Co-op has over 53,000 members, 3,500 of whom are located overseas. The following countries have at least 100 members: Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and Australia. The following countries have at least 50 members: Taiwan, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Israel, Hong Kong, France, Brazil, and Korea. Other nations with significant membership include Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, India, and Argentina.

In 2007, the Co-op did more than $5 million in sales, achieving a net profit of $20,173.

In September 2008, the Co-op launched The Front Table, a web magazine for book lovers and Co-op members. Barack Obama's patronage of the bookstore garnered attention in the wake of his election.[1]

In 2017 the Co-op announced that on April 1, 2017 it would take back the shares of "inactive members" who had not purchased anything in 2 years, unless they contacted the store and requested otherwise. In addition, the Co-op no longer requires the purchase of stock to become a member and receive 10% of monthly purchases in store credit. [4]


  1. ^ a b Keller, Julia (2 January 2009). "Barack Obama gives Seminary Co-Op a big boost". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  2. ^ "Seminary Co-op Bookstore". Metromix. Archived from the original on 2006-05-22. Retrieved 2006-09-03.
  3. ^ Scott, Janny (1997-02-17). "Columbia Nurtures A Major Bookstore For Serious Scholars". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  4. ^ Jeff Deutsch (Feb 15, 2017). "The Future of the Co-op: A Message from the Director" (Press release). Seminary Co-op Bookstores.

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Coordinates: 41°47′24.69″N 87°35′51.88″W / 41.7901917°N 87.5977444°W / 41.7901917; -87.5977444