Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bookstore Follies

One of the little lessons I've learned about teaching: always check your books at the bookstore during the week before classes.

Here's how it goes. In, say, early October, the bookstore sends out requests for book orders, to be handed in by mid-October.

Sometime in December, I realize that I haven't ordered books yet, and order the ones that are easy, the ones for classes I've taught a fair bit or that don't have many books to order.

For Chaucer this term, I ordered AC Cawley's Everyman edition of The Canterbury Tales. It's cheap, it's got decent notes, and it's easy for students to carry around in overloaded backpacks.

Then in early January, I got around to ordering the more complicated orders, the ones involving different editions of plays. I gave up on a big Shakespeare anthology because it's too painfully heavy to carry around in backpacks with a couple 20 pound science texts.

So, today I went and checked my books. Shakespeare looks good; they notified me before that they were going to get one edition in only during the second week of classes, and I worked that into the syllabus, so it's no problem.

Comp is a mess, but all three of the texts I ordered are there, and we'll figure it out if necessary.

Chaucer is mostly okay. Mostly there are used and new editions of the Everyman. But there were also about 5 Penguin editions, in modern English translation with no notes. Oops!

Happily, the bookstore manager came and we chatted, and he pulled them off the shelf and told me to have any students who bought the wrong edition come in and exchange for the right one. So that should work out fine.

I'm extra glad I went and checked. I wonder how many of my students bought the Penguin, since it's smaller in size (and that's always appealing!).


  1. Checking books sounds like a good practice. Unfortunately, many (if not most) of my students have been ordering books online. A good number of them don't order books until they've been to class the first time, so there's always this week to ten-day period where half the class doesn't have the book(s). Ugh. I really do understand the financial end of buying books online, but it makes the beginning of the semester SO difficult! Shakespeare isn't so bad -- the plays can be found online easily. But the comp classes? Nightmarish.

  2. My students who order on-line either email me requesting a list of the books I've ordered (which I can easily copy/paste) or get the same information from the bookstore. They're pretty responsible about it, mostly. Some, of course, can't afford books, but that's a different problem.

  3. We're now going to be required by the state to put in our book orders before students register for classes. Our students register a year (not a semester) at a time, and they do so in early April. April! By April, I'm supposed to have a book list for Spring 2011!

    That's not terribly relevant to your concerns, but I'm glad to be have the opportunity to whine.

  4. Anonymous8:31 PM

    Bardiac that is SUCH a good idea. And you sound very patient about students who email for the list before the term. Kudos to you for that! (Have to admit, that request bugs me. I always want to just email them the link to the bookstore, which has everything listed! But I haven't...yet.)

    Oh Heu Mihi, that sounds *awful*!

  5. In class yesterday I learned that (a) the bookstore had not ordered enough copies of the books and (b) one of hte books was not very available.
    I can't check our bookstore because you line up in the hall and get the books for your class. (Ick, I know. I loved choosing classes by the books)

    As for Heu Mihi's system, that's seriously screwy.

  6. richard11:19 AM

    Our online registration system allows the instructor to list the books, including ISBN, for each class. So when students look through the online catalog, they see the books and can order them from wherever they like.

    This has not proven to be all goodness and light for various reasons, but the students seem to like it. Faculty not so much.