I have done a video to show the route from the Forum retail units to the new space above the student bar. Partly this is a public service as the route is not that easy to find. Also it is a genuine curiosity. Exeter is possibly the only university to spend millions of pound to demolish a bookshop. Of course there are many other aspects but in terms of function it is clear that before the new Forum there was a permanent bookshop. Now there is not.
Couple of things may be speculation but have not been denied. The bookshop has always been viable and Blackwell's would prefer to have a space. The decision appears to have been based on design criteria for modern retail environments. It is thought that a bookshop is not the latest thing on the high street or contained shopping experience. For similar reasons there was no box for posting letters in the relaunch of Princesshay. There is still a Post Office on an upper floor and you can still post a letter but in a discreet sort of way so the design style is safe for gadgets and headphones.
Of course I welcome the new digital technology but it can be blended with classic items. The university and the bookshop have been associated for a while now. It may be that digital technology can assist the bookshop future. In Charing Cross Road there was a print device for one off books. This seems to be discontinued but in a previous short term bookshop there were editions in a run of 150 for a specific Exeter course. there may be other ways to combine hard copy and digital technology.
As the unexpected festival continues in Exeter it is hard to know which is more unexpected - a university without a bookshop or the low level of publicity for the bookshop return.