What a Racket!


I had a different post I was going to write today but instead I spent the day trying to figure out how to deal with a textbook issue in my class. Let me back up a bit.

Last semester there was an issue when one of my classes did not have a text because it was not ordered. >:( So for this semester, in December, I called the bookstore and checked on all my classes. I was told yes they had the order and indeed they even had the book, plenty of copies.

Fast forward to this semester, week one of classes is plagued by a system-wide Blackboard outage which puts all classes behind. Then I walk into my on-campus class which meets on Friday mornings to find that 5 or 6 students do not have the book and the bookstore has told them they can get any more copies because it is an “old” edition. Note is it a 2012 edition and 2013 came out in January. So, I let them out a few minutes early and march down to find out where all of my “plenty” of copies have gone. I was told by the nice lady at the bookstore that 1. they sold an awful lot of my books and 2. they didn’t order a full class load of books because why would ALL of the students buy the book. Huh?

When I questioned why we could not order more books and was told that there were not more books to be found. Really? There are “plenty” wherever I have looked. Here is the rub. There are no more at the suppliers the bookstore is “allowed to use.” Why is that important? Because I work at a small community college where financial aid does not come in for about 4 weeks. The bookstore is willing to front the kids money against their incoming financial aid to buy their books. If the bookstore is not willing to get anymore books from other supplier, these kids are out of luck.

I might have gotten a bit peeved. The bookstore employee searched around a bit and seemed to find a new source and ordered 15 more copies. She called and confirmed they were physical books with the access code needed. They would be in on Wednesday. YAY! I tell the students. I move due dates. We wait for Wednesday. Yesterday was Wednesday. Guess what? No physical books, just cards with access codes and e-texts.

So tomorrow I go to class and tell students, sorry you are out of luck. I know you have the money coming to buy the book from another source, but the bookstore screwed you out of a text for the class for 4 weeks and I can’t put off all assignments that long. Oh, and you, my student with a learning disability, I really hope you can  use an e-text.

All of this is a long way to ask if textbooks have become more of a racket. I mean I know that have always been horrible overpriced, but this stranglehold of one store and limited supply seems to be setting students up to fail. And if this is the case, are we losing students not because they can’t cut it but because they can’t financial cut it. And isn’t that a shame.

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