Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ruminations on a bookstore order form

Hello, Bookstore Fucker. No, I don’t want your fucking books.

I hate you, Bookstore Fucker. You have been the same Bookstore Fucker singing the same tune for the past two decades. You demand I tell you how many students I have in my classes next semester, and what text I’m using, and then you purposely don’t order enough fucking books. This has been going on since Bush was president. And not the recent, criminally stupid doofus Bush that gave forced backrubs to the German chancellor, but the goofus Bush who barfed on the prime minister of Japan. In twenty more years perhaps Jenna Bush will be taking a dump on the Queen of Norway, but you will still be the same old Bookstore Fucker.

Year after year, decade after decade, you have been performing the collegiate equivalent of ass-raping my students and dumping them by the side of the road. Yes, twenty years ago I was complaining that you didn’t order enough books. Your response was some whining that “students order it at a bookstore instead” or “students get it from a friend instead.” You didn’t care if students couldn’t do their work or professors couldn’t follow their syllabi for WEEKS, and you don’t care now, only now you whine that students get the text off the internet.

You, who never gave a crap about whether students got their books the first day of class, or the fiftieth. You, who reorder in dribs and drabs so that students must return to you three and four times before the text is in stock. You, whose only god is the God of Not Having to Send Back Books.

Well, this semester marked the very end of my association with you, Bookstore Fucker. Some of my students went to the bookstore three times before they could actually purchase a textbook, and it wasn’t until the end of the second week of class that it was everyone managed to get one. It sold out, you ordered more but not enough, and by the time they got to the bookstore, it was sold out again. I know because I checked on their stories every time, Bookstore Fucker. Students are lying little shits, but even they know the truth about Bookstore Fucker.

It was not possible to evade you ten years ago, Bookstore Fucker. But even here, at Deep South Shithole U, where many of our students seem to commute from leaky trailers at the end of unmarked gravel roads, the twenty-first century is upon us. It is upon you, Bookstore Fucker, because now the vast majority of even our students have fast internet connections in what they call their homes.

So, listen to me. Can you hear that bell tolling? It’s tolling for you, Bookstore Fucker. I have packed a week of introductory lectures into every last course I teach, to give my students time to order from Amazon. Where possible, I am avoiding hard copy texts entirely (this is because of your cousin, Publisher Fucker, but that’s another story). Yes, you might see some of the more hopeless students, the poorest ones that don’t have credit cards and have to buy their books with loan vouchers (way to soak those at the very bottom, Bookstore Fucker). But I am going to see to it that every student that can, avoids you like the plague you are.

Hasta la vista, baby


  1. As soon as I see registrations for my classes, I send a link to a public site I maintain that has the textbook name/author, edition #, and ISBN.

    Of course, I also warn them about Amazon shipments (but I mentioned this in another thread).

    [And, of course, some DON'T listen, but... that's not my problem. They were forewarned.]

  2. "Can you hear that bell tolling? It’s tolling for you, Bookstore Fucker."

    Thanks, darling Stella! Same story here. I have noticed that nothing seems to freak out Bookstore Fucker more than when I actually *walk down to the bookstore many times* to confront him about the status of the book orders. On one occasion, BF (who is not employed by the university but by Large Chain Bookstore for BFs) told me, after I complained repeatedly about the same problem you discuss, that - in line with Large Chain Bookstore's policies - they only order books for 80% of students registered for a class. Why? "Because every semester, a certain number of students always drop the class," Bookstore Fucker told me. Oh, really? Do they ALL drop at least one class? And even if they do, don't most of them drop it in order to take a different class? Bookstore Fucker had no answer.

    I've taken the same approach to my syllabi: stick as closely as possible to photocopies and non-book materials for the first week. But beyond that, thank you Bookstore Fucker for screwing with my students. If I thought you were smarter and more interesting, I might actually think you were intentionally evil.

  3. Whenever possible, I have students locate and download shorter (article-length) readings from the excellent selection of journal/other periodical databases to which our library subscribes. It's good practice in using the databases, they've already paid for the readings with their tax and tuition dollars, and they don't have to pay outrageous prices for badly scanned and completely un-proofed "readers" which give the lie to my insistence that, out in th'e real world, you won't succeed if you don't edit, proofread, etc., etc.

    Of course, this won't work for subjects for which you need a real textbook, but for those of us in composition, it's a good workaround.

  4. I'm sorry about the bookstore, really. But I could live without the South-bashing.

    Living in a trailer is not a character flaw, for one thing.

    And why is it that academics will bend over backwards to extol the virtue and validity of every indigenous culture on earth, then turn around and bash the hell out of everything southern?

    The culture that produced Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, Eudora Welty, Elvis, the blues, bluegrass and country music, along with many unique (and dying) dialects and folkways is somehow fair game for every academic asshole looking to assert some sort of pathetic cultural superiority. Enough already. Maybe shut your pompous pie hole for five minutes and consider the rich history and culture of the place you live (and the state whose money you're taking to mock kids who attend college while having the poor taste to live in trailers).

    Knock it off, y'all.

  5. I suppose I could have written "Rural Shithole University." It's not really about the South. And I don't think I ever intimated that living in a trailer is a character flaw.

  6. May I suggest dropping the textbook requirement?

    There are so many excellent, really quality online sources these days. You can assign online readings and resources and then put a few general reference books on hold or saves or reserve or whatever your college calls it at the undergrad library. No purchasing books; no mercy of bookstore fuckers. And your students love you for being tech-savvy and thinking of their pocketbooks.

    Screw the books. My lecture is your textbook.

  7. Yeah, but you said "southern shithole," which is disparaging in a particular way that "rural" would not have been.

    Fair enough about the trailer comment, though. I do see your point.

    My last couple of paragraphs are more generally directed at comments I've seen here and heard expressed by academics in various venues. Your "southern shithole" comment just touched a nerve.

  8. Personally, I like how we are now required to provide textbook information early so that students can shop around for the best prices. I have sent textbook information during summer and winter breaks to students enrolled in my classes -- complete with a link that gives them the prices of the book from different Internet vendors -- for a couple of years now. [It doesn't matter that the students get at least a month's notice of what book they need and the links to get them to a cheap purchase place; they still wait until the week classes start.]

    This year the bookstore wants to know what books I'm using BEFORE I EVEN KNOW FOR SURE WHAT CLASSES I'M TEACHING. Registration for spring doesn't start until next month, but the deadline for book submissions is Friday. WTF?

  9. Prissy Prof: We appear to do the same and... our bookstores must be under similar management (whether it's B&N or Follett).

    I know which classes I'm teaching, but my due date to let the bookstore know is also approaching rapidly. The course I'm concerned about is one that we last taught in the Spring; I just found out that the book publisher will not be releasing the new edition for at least a year (it needs updating badly), AND (as a result) I'm thinking of locating sufficient journal articles or book excerpts, but... there's not much time (while this semester is plowing away).

    We still have a quarter of a year before the next semester.

    And... seeing that we may replace a primary text for a class, a colleague and I are getting a new textbook NOW to review for a class that we wouldn't use it in until next Fall (2011).

    Planning ahead is great, but this is a little nuts.

  10. Oh so true.

    The bookstore is great for adjuncts. We find out we're going to teach classes 3 days before the term starts sometimes (and occasionally after...). And the bookstore yells at us for not having our order in five months earlier like all the responsible full-time staff members.

    I can just see how that conversation goes: "Man I hate this STAFF person. He is always so irresponsible. Why do they let him teach 50 courses every terms?"

    Oh, by the way, we're technically not allowed to tell our students that our books are available anywhere but the bookstore, as part of a special shit contact the institution has signed with the bookstore.

    This term I have a class where I'm teaching entirely in library reserves. It's one heck of a printing bill for the students, and I'm supporting no author or publisher, but the library was way more understanding about getting in stuff last minute. Ergo...

    (Surly, I'd make fun of my northern state, but it would give away my secret identity. But since I'm Cute Cleo from Calumet City -- now that I think of it, I probably was originally Cute Clio from Calumet City-- I can make disparaging remarks about empty steel mills if you want.)

  11. Cute Cleo
    "we're technically not allowed to tell our students that our books are available anywhere but the bookstore, as part of a special shit contact..."
    Can they actually do that? Not challenging your point but in awe that corporate encroachment can trump academic freedom and freedom of speech.

  12. Stella, you are the Bard of Bookstorefuckery.

    I too provide ISBN numbers on my online course descriptions, due 6-8 months ahead of the class.

    Speaking of I, too, where is Yaro?

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  14. (delete above due to hasty writing...)

    1. I heart my Southern Shit-hole. And I'm from the family regards me as seriously delusional. We are from a rural part of the North (those do exist) and so I find their attitude puzzling -- both places are rural, so what's the big deal? Ah, well.

    2. THANK YOU for this post.

    3. Regarding abandoning textbooks...I suspect this is more possible in some classes than in others. I would have had a very challenging time in Biology I and Biology II without a textbook, although perhaps if my instructor spoke English fluently, we could have lived sans textbook. (I say this as someone who now speaks two languages useful only in .0001% of the world, which isn't exactly helpful, either.)

    4. I feel horrible encouraging my students to use Amazon because I used to work in an independent bookstore. I know -- anachronism,
    Luddite, invisible hand of the market. But, I have worked out an arrangement with a couple of local bookstores that are plugged into the Ingram system. They get my booklist, and they usually get ten or twelve students a term who buy their books through those stores. Here in Lefty Social Science Land, you often find people who are willing to engage in such perversely backward behavior. Using Ingram ensures that the books arrive quite quickly, sometimes even faster than they might arrive through Amazon.

  15. EnglishProf.,

    No idea. It's easy enough to get around though, and I don't think anyone actually pays attention to the rule. I usually say something like the following: "So, according to the powers-that-be, I am not allowed to tell you that other bookstores on earth besides our bookstore carries this book. So I give you this ISBN number in order that you might more easily find the book.... in our bookstore... right."

  16. I, too, (with all props to Yaro) am forbidden to mention that any other bookstore on earth sells the book. So I say "Ahem. I am not allowed to tell you that you can buy the book for a better price from any number of second hand stores and/or online. So I won't tell you that, because it is against the rules."

    FUCK THOSE BASTARDS. And thanks for the post. I seriously think that Inner City Community College uses the exact same bookstore!

  17. We have to use whatever textbook was chosen by our HQ back in the States. No choices. And our bookstore guy virtually ALWAYS sends textbooks for classes I have not taught to my NEXT base and not my current one--I move about every two months to a new base. I am pretty sure he has done it yet again. So I will arrive two days before classes with a book I have never seen and am expected to have already figured out what they should read and what they can skip.
    I would love to have the choice of no book, but if I can't, it would be nice for the book to be sent to the right country.


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