Textbook buying is harder than it should be

The Baylor Bookstore, the center of all things Baylor, remains the boon and the bane of most of the students that attend this school.

Not only can we get our textbooks and various school supplies there, we can get the latest young-adult fiction (Baylor appropriate, of course) for moderately unfair prices. We can get everything from day planners to the latest Apple products and accessories.

Though it is a place that is indispensable to campus, like any other college, it has proved to be more trouble than it’s worth for a lot of students. Complaints abound about this hub of campus activity. One Austin senior, David Umstattd, said, “Walking into the bookstore is like walking into an airport.

And he’s right.

Upon entering the main campus bookstore, students must relinquish their bags, and whatever valuables they may contain, and leave them in the hands of unknown attendants who are obviously overwhelmed by the mayhem that is fulfilling the orders of thousands of students. We saw the downhill slope this system caused when a student’s belongings were stolen from the cubbies in the lobby last spring. Though security was improved after that incident, students are still uncomfortable or unsure of what to do with their belongings.

Let’s start with textbooks themselves.

They’re expensive and heavy. They are rendered worthless by the time the semester is over because a new edition will most likely be used, yielding little to no returns from the $300 book/CD set that has now become obsolete. This leaves students with a grudging 15 percent refund on the books that are refundable and a growing pile of doorstops and dust collectors out of the rest.

But to the main point: not only does the textbook industry smack of highway robbery, it’s a system that doesn’t benefit the students most of the time.

Even now, there are several students who still haven’t received textbooks they’ve ordered before the semester started, particularly the textbooks that are the hardest to find elsewhere online.

In one geology lab class, half the students have still not received their lab books halfway through the semester. They have had to make do with copying the weekly lessons from those that have received their lab books so they can be prepared for the weekly quizzes.

The lab books, in particular, that various departments in the science fields produce are impossible to buy or find outside of ordering them directly from the bookstore. Students must have these to pass their lab classes.

OK, fine, we’ll simply order it early over the summer like responsible adults. However, what is a student to do when the essential workbooks are on back-order — for three months?

It helps only a little that there are two other bookstores close to campus.

They are convenient during the beginning and the end of the semester, when everyone and their mother (literally) decide to bombard the main bookstore on Fifth Street.

It is not uncommon for students to fall through the cracks in this understandably overburdened system. As a student, there is nothing worse than pouring money into something that yields no return.

When lab books, in particular, go on back-order for any length of time, students’ chances of excelling in that class are decreased. Our quality of education suffers.

Maybe the bookstore isn’t to blame. It’s probably just the middle man in a maelstrom of money changing hands. But we students have to start somewhere.

We have to start where we see the problem happening. And right now that’s the timing and number of orders the bookstore makes to the publisher.

Baylor needs to take a closer look at how to make the already tedious task of ordering books from the professors and buying books from the students as seamless and painless as possible.

It will take initiative on all sides: The professors need to have their orders in early so that the bookstore can prepare appropriately so the students can get their books with no hassle.

This is most likely easier said than done, of course. But nothings harder than watching your money go down the drain, especially when you’re already giving $51,000 a year to the university.