Students Rally Against Textbook Oppression

By Brenna Nelson |  Staff Writer



Caught on video, students can be seen protesting what they perceive to be the inherent injustice of the online textbook-ordering system. The chant “We will not stand for oppression!” could be heard above the crowd.

Yesterday morning, an organized group of Ave Maria University students was reported to be holding signs up in the recreational areas protesting, refusing to go to class.  They continue to rally, chanting about their textbook-buying woes and wondering if education is worth continuing with such oppression.  We talked to some of the despairing students, hoping to bring light to this burning injustice.  In addition, we brought along a public relations specialist from a popular textbook-selling website for expert comment.

The textbook industry is almost entirely online now, which means browsing for the right website is multifaceted.  An experienced junior talked us through the process: “You start off by saying a Hail Mary, then you search for your book on Google.”   He went on to tell us that when he was a freshman, he was tricked by the industry into thinking he was getting a deal.  “I was so excited to find my textbook for only forty dollars, but soon realized at the checkout page that the shipping was $300.”  He now warns everyone of the dangers of clicking too quickly.

A victim of the same mistake, a new student explained to us how difficult it was for her to recover from clicking the “place order” button in haste.  “I had waited too long to buy the Iliad for my literature class, so I was looking everywhere for an available book.  All seemed lost until I stumbled across a website that was selling it for just a few dollars.  I bought it before anyone else could.  It wasn’t until I opened it for the first time in class that I found I had bought the Japanese Kanshi translation, not Lombardo.”  


It is not uncommon to experience extreme delays in shipping when buying textbooks online, as illustrated by this e-mail notification.

We asked our expert public relations specialist for comment on these struggles and he replied with a smile, “Isn’t that what language courses are for?”

By far, the most common complaint was the length of time spent waiting for textbooks to arrive.  Many students told us that the demand for textbooks is so high that backorder time period has become debilitating.  Our expert spoke with us personally to address this, saying, “I think it’s best to start buying textbooks at the same time you’re buying your airline tickets for Thanksgiving or making reservations for Valentine’s day: several months in advance.”  Then the crowd erupted in outrage, waving their “No More Patience for Two Year Wait Lists!” signs a little higher.

In efforts to reduce cost and hassle, students have turned to buying used books from their fellow classmates.  However, one student made us aware of the other costs involved: “When I received my used textbook wrapped in bubble wrap and caution tape from the current owner, I knew I had made a mistake.  I ended up special ordering a glass case to keep it in, only to be accessed through attached rubber gloves on one side. The gloves were not just to keep me safe from the unidentifiable substances inside, but for the safety of the fragile book as well.”  We were allowed to view the book and observed that the binding seemed to be made entirely of duct tape.  Photography, however, was not permitted.

The public relations specialist did his best to talk to the protesters about places they can go for help, one being the website he represents.  In regards to cost, he advised that students should think about selling nonessential things to cover costs, like their cars or shoes, and that renting out your old bedroom is always an option.  


Cover photo by Michael Fleshman via Flikr.

Internal photos by Chris Brown and jimjarmo.

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