The Bookstore

I've had some problems with the Bookstore in the past, but those were issues with the price of textbooks. This year, I had a whole new set of problems.

As you may have read, the UofA changed how it deals with copyright; the deadline for the old regime expiring was August 31, 2011. This change has meant a great upheaval in how instructors prepare coursepacks. Previously, we'd submit a list of readings to SUBPrint, and they would handle the copyright side of things via the UofA's agreement with the licensing agency Access Copyright. But as of September 1, 2011, that agreement no longer holds; SUBPrint now has to contact each individual rightsholder and negotiate an agreement with them. This is probably just as much fun as it sounds. Yeesh!

I submitted my PSYCO 494 coursepacks for Fall, 2011 in early August, and I was warned by SUBPrint that they couldn't simply print off more coursepacks if more students were allowed into my class in September. OK, fine. I asked if it would be a good idea if I also submitted my PSYCO 365 coursepacks for Winter, 2012 before the August 31 deadline. The response was a very desperate, pleading, "YES!" I'd used this coursepack before and hadn't planned on making any major changes to it, so I submitted it, feeling very pleased with myself for being so darn clever. How many coursepacks did I need? Well, the class is capped at 125, so that's exactly how many copies SUBPrint made, and sent them off to the Bookstore.

September came and I ended up with 29 students in PSYCO 494, just one shy of the cap of 30. Whew. Fast forward to January, 2012. The Department bumped enrollment in PSYCO 365 from 125 to 130, but I was confident there would be enough coursepacks; I knew there would be at least 5 students from last year selling their old coursepacks. So I was a bit concerned to hear from an increasing chorus of students that they could not find the coursepack at the Bookstore.

As I was off campus, I called the Bookstore and asked how many copies they had. The nice person who answered the phone went type-type-type and answered "there are 65 left." What the...? Why can't anyone find them? "Hmm," I hmmed to the nice person, "would you mind seeing how many there are actually out on the shelf?" She went away and I waited and waited. And waited. On hold, I killed time by checking my email. She finally came back, sheepishly admitting that there were no coursepacks to be found. As I was waiting, I'd gotten an email from a student who was told by a Bookstore manager that they had "run out" and that the instructor should "get more copies printed." What the...? That's exactly what I couldn't do. And what happened to the ones that were printed off over the summer?

Dialling the phone like a mad-phone-dialling person, I left messages for the SUBPrint manager and Bookstore manager. An agonizing few hours later I got a response: the coursepacks had been located. Where were they? In a box. On the floor. Outside the manager's office.

This ridiculous episode has shaken my confidence in the Bookstore--to the point of me really not trusting them at all any more. There are consistent problems every term getting enough copies of textbooks in (most recently, it happened once in Fall, 2011 term and again this Winter, 2012 term); they usually blame the publisher for shorting their orders. Although I suppose that might happen, I don't know why the Bookstore isn't wising up to this, if it keeps happening.

There apparently is a new director at the Bookstore. Maybe things will improve. I've been told by one of the Bookstore managers that:

"Under our new director, the Bookstore is working on several course material improvements including an enhanced web-based ordering service."
Oh yeah, the crappy web-based ordering service. Don't even get me started on that. My confidence is at a low ebb already.

What problems have you had with the Bookstore?

Why aren't you studying?


Anonymous said...

The bookstore is quickly being left in the past. Digital books are certainly the future offering interactivity, up-to-date information and better pricing. In the meantime I can order most of my required texts cheaper from amazon and not have to stand in the long lines in the bookstore.

We just need a good alternative to paper course packs and I'll never have to set foot in the place again!

Karsten A. Loepelmann said...

@Anonymous: There is an alternative: Academic Pub. I recently went to a presentation they gave (the local rep used to run the UofA Bookstore, smirk!). Haven't tried them out yet, but I might for one of my summer courses.

Anastasia said...

I find their lack of books on the subject of how to train giraffes highly unsettling.

Find It