Campus students and professors may have trouble acquiring course books this semester, with textbooks under-ordered at the Cal Student Store because of storage issues and expensive price tags.
The store determines how many books to order based on data from past enrollment in classes, professor popularity and class sizes, according to Cal Student Store manager Katherine Urbanowich. Some textbooks ordered by professors even before the semester started, however, have yet to arrive.
English 117S professor Jeffrey Knapp said many of his students were unable to get their books in time. According to an email sent to students by Knapp, the Cal Student Store under-ordered the required text by 50 percent.
Knapp said it was “disappointing” that his students “had to scramble” to get their books.
“I know the bookstore just reopened, so I’m sure there’s kinks,” Knapp said. “But it’s important that students get the books they need for the courses they’re taking.”
The Cal Student Store orders textbooks once professors submit their syllabi, then “(weeds) out” old or hard-to-find editions, Urbanowich said. Additionally, the store under-orders expensive books students might not purchase.
In such cases, Urbanowich said, the Cal Student Store will “try to be as transparent with this as possible and as soon as possible.”
The store orders more textbooks for larger lecture classes such as the Math 16 series, which uses a custom textbook. But for classes that use novels easily available on Amazon or on Facebook groups such as Free and For Sale, the store won’t order as many.
UC Berkeley freshman Emily Hsiao said she ordered her textbook for Spanish 162 three weeks ago but still hasn’t received it. Student Store employees told her weeks ago that the textbook would arrive soon and have not given her a delivery date.
“It’s really frustrating, because I basically have to rely on looking at my phone for all the texts because our class is really heavily centered around the textbook,” Hsiao said.
Hsiao said she chose to order through the Cal Student Store because the textbook would have taken three weeks to arrive through Amazon. According to Hsiao, her professor Eva Nunez-Mendez noticed that the store only had five books in stock for her class of 20 students when she visited the store.
Urbanowich said under-ordering and over-ordering books is something the store is working on.
“We want people to know if they can’t get a book so they can get another avenue,” Urbanowich said. “They have different options.”
Storage issues are also a factor in the ordering of books.
“Unfortunately in the renovation of the student center, the store lost a lot of space,” Urbanowich said, adding that the store must be selective to predict what the best investment is for space efficiency.
If the store over-orders, the store attempts to return the textbooks to the publisher, though Urbanowich did not say how often the store over-orders books. The store usually goes through several different rounds of ordering in the first few weeks of school to adjust for the right number of books.
“It’s not an exact science with ordering books,” Urbanowich said.
While the store tries to order as early as possible, spring semesters are particularly difficult because teaching adjunct professors sometimes submit syllabi late, Urbanowich said.
“(We’ve) definitely improved our ability to order more accurately, but (it’s) never going to be exact science,” Urbanowich said.
Michelle Leung covers student life. Contact her at [email protected].