The disconnect between students, syllabi and bookstores

Relentless reminders to be prepared ahead of time feel hollow when students are punished for doing so.
This is the experience I had recently when I tried to purchase my textbooks a week ahead of class. I assumed that with so much time before the start of the quarter, information on what textbooks I needed and whether or not they needed some form of online access, would be readily available. Oh, if only.
My troubles began when I searched the SCC section of the U bookstore and was presented with some baffling results. One class (we’ll call it class A), which I assumed would have an online component, offered two options. There was a loose leaf textbook and a standard textbook, both of which could only be bought used. The other class (we’ll call it class B) returned no results whatsoever, which led me to assume class B required no textbook.
Hey, it’s happened before.
Being the cheap bastard I am, I immediately searched the ISBN of class A’s textbook on Amazon, to see if I could find a better deal. Amazon had the same textbook for much cheaper used (and only slightly more expensive new) and I was about to jump on it. I’m glad I didn’t though, as waiting a few days revealed that class A had an online component. One you could gain access to by buying the textbook from the U bookstore.
One which the Amazon listing, despite having the same ISBN, could not give you access to.
Of course, I’m assuming the U bookstore listing gave you access. It said so nowhere on the page, and the only thing I have to go off of is an instructor saying it might give me access. Might.
The quickest and cheapest option was to just buy an e-text version and online access from the publisher, which I did, but I find online-only textbooks inconvenient, partly because they are useless without internet access or power. Once again, this option was not listed anywhere except the course syllabus, which I could not access until the weekend before the start of the quarter.
Oh, and class B? It not only needed a textbook, but separate online access which had to be bought on its own. The textbook was not listed on the U bookstore site until the start of the quarter, nor was the class published until the quarter began. Thank god both were cheap, or I’d have blown a gasket.
Making matters worse for class B, is that since I wasn’t able to buy my textbook until after the start of the quarter, it didn’t arrive until friday afternoon (I bought it through Amazon). I was busy studying until Friday evening at the library and spent all of Saturday shopping, so I wasn’t able to check class B until Sunday. Upon checking it, I discovered I had a discussion due on Sunday. One which required me to read the entirety of the first chapter, alongside researching other sources.
Cramming my textbook and working on homework is not how I wanted to spend my Sunday.
But this is why it’s so infuriating: There is an implicit punishment associated with not buying your textbooks ahead of time and being prepared. Assignments start becoming due early in the quarter, requiring textbooks that may take a while to ship. Textbook lines are longest on the first few days, encouraging students to either buy texts online or get them early. I’ve personally experienced having a textbook go out of stock because I didn’t buy it until the quarter started, and had to wait for a new copy to be delivered to the bookstore.
There is a constant unspoken pressure to be prepared for class, and to not provide students with the resources they need to be prepared is hypocritical, no matter how unintentional.

_Eva Guarnero

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