Published March 4, 2008
If you haven't caught on yet, the secret is out: Textbooks are less expensive if you buy them online. No matter what you are looking for, Amazon.com or Half.com is likely to have it for a lower price than Ulrich's. When you buy online, though, you aren't able to bring the book home right after you pay. Instead, you wait. In a long-overdue solution, all of this hassle could be averted with a new CTools feature that will host a book exchange and hopefully get professors to post their textbook lists earlier. The University can't just hope professors contribute. It should force them to do it.
The University's book exchange, called uBook, will work like other online marketplaces. It will create an online textbook swap website to help students afford these often ridiculously high priced books, and because the trade will be local, avoid the shipping delays. The whole thing will be featured on CTools.
The University hopes that this exchange will also compel professors to post on CTools which books they will require for their classes before the semester begins. This way, books that aren't available on uBook could be purchased someplace else, including other online marketplaces, and still arrive on time for classes to start.
While the book exchange sounds promising, the University isn't offering any incentive for professors to participate. Certainly some professors who understand the importance of this issue will participate. However, without an incentive or a requirement, it is ludicrous to think that a book exchange website will make professors inform students about the required readings. Not all professors use CTools for their classes either, even if they have their book lists available before the semester starts.
There is a simple solution: Require professors to release their book lists early. This would be beneficial for students and require little extra effort from professors.
Many professors insist that they don't know ahead of time which books they are using for the upcoming semester. However, this is no excuse. It's doubtful that professors decide what they will be teaching mere days before classes start, especially when they have already taught the class before. More importantly, if professors don't know what books they are using for their classes ahead of time, they probably aren't really prepared to teach their courses.
Professors expect students to come prepared for their lectures and exams. Students should expect them to be prepared enough for their classes to help them out a bit. The reason why professors give out syllabi in the first place is to prepare their students - that's tough to do if the books aren't available on time.