I am short at least one textbook as I finish my second week of class and I'm not alone. The University of Calgary Bookstore, which has proudly charged students retail prices for already overpriced books since the beginning of time, has let students down once again.
To be fair, most students had most of their textbooks on time for class. Problems also occurred this year when one of its major distributors went belly-up, forcing them to look elsewhere. This of course isn't the bookstore's fault, and it shouldn't shoulder the blame. However, some of the textbook issues are the result of far greater problems, pointing to cracks in the entire system.
First, says the bookstore, they order fewer copies than required for most classes, assuming students will either buy used books, borrow them from friends or purchase them from other sources like Chapters' on-line bookstore. Unfortunately, the bookstore can't effectively predict how many people will sell books at the university's store or the Students' Union's, nor can they forecast the borrowing (or even photocopying) habits of students.
Second, the bookstore must realize anyone can walk into the U of C Bookstore and buy textbooks off the shelf, whether they are Mount Royal College students looking for out-of-stock books from their own store, members of the public or students that buy books simply for reading pleasure (something I admit to doing on at least one occasion). Unless the bookstore checks ID numbers before each purchase, (assuming they order the exact number needed for a class,) it cannot guarantee students a copy of their required textbook. And, of course, that's also assuming courses aren't overloaded: something the bookstore admits happens often. Some will argue the bookstore is a business that needs to turn a profit and should be run as such. Given that, all of these business strategies--ordering less to avoid overstock, letting anyone who wants purchase textbooks--are sensible decisions.
However, the bookstore is more than that. It's a service that, like many on campus, is essential for every student taking a course at this university. Students pay substantial amounts of money for tuition and one of the countless services they receive is access to required course materials, be that sketch pads for art classes or the many textbooks needed for English 240. If they don't, it is extremely difficult, and in some cases impossible, for said students to receive the quality of education they deserve, that they've paid for.
Statistically, this isn't a problem for all students--not even close. In four years at the U of C, this is the first year I am without a textbook for at least another week. However, anecdotal evidence suggests it is still a sizable concern. The bookstore, however, claims that this year's situation is better than in years past. While some might congratulate them on this tremendous accomplishment, they still have a long way to go.