At the beginning of every semester, the line of students waiting to copy course packs at Excel Test Preparation, Coursepacks and Copies on South University Avenue often snakes down the stairs. It coils around a circle of desks in the store’s small waiting room.

Students might hate standing in line, but the wait helps keep down the cost of course packs, said Excel Director Norman Miller.

Course pack prices at Excel are based solely on the number of pages copied, and Miller estimated that the most expensive coursepacks, which contain up to 1000 pages, cost between $70 and $80. At other local copying stores, large coursepacks can cost twice that amount.

Prices at Excel vary with the various bundling options that the store offers. The store will bind pages, punch them to fit three-hole notebooks, or leave them as loose sheets of paper.

Excel can sell coursepacks cheaper than other stores because each student has to copy the pages themselves. Because this practice falls under the fair use stipulation of U.S. copyright law, Excel doesn’t have to pay the authors of the selections in the coursepacks royalties, Miller said.

Miller said copying the pages in a coursepack is like recording a movie broadcast on television. While making a copy of the film for personal viewing is legal, making multiple copies of the film and selling them to friends is illegal.

This means coursepacks that have already been copied and bound for students, like the ones sold at nearby Dollar Bill Copying on Church St., are significantly more expensive regardless of how many pages they contain.

Many professors choose to use coursepacks rather than textbooks because it allows them to use more recent material and hand-pick readings for their students.

Some students say Excel isn’t worth the wait, though.

Engineering sophomore Kimberly Gross said that she waited two hours last fall to copy a $30 coursepack at Excel. She only used the coursepack once because her professor put most of the course readings online.

This semester she only waited for 15 minutes at Dollar Bill for her pre-assembled coursepack.

She said she would rather pay more to avoid waiting in line.

“If your professor’s nice and they get it somewhere else, it’s going to be a lot easier for you,” she said.

TARYN HARTMAN

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