[email protected]

Name- Marx Marvelous

Classification or Title- part-time faculty, student, and full-time populist

[Please do NOT publish the following personal information, only my pen name, title, and my letter. Thank you]:

Phone- (270) 618-5859

Hometown- Bowling Green, KY

Editor: I’ve got a couple of related letters for you today. The original piece started as a letter focusing on bookstore prices and how to find cheaper books online. However, after stumbling across a startling bit o’ information my letter quickly grew to proportions meriting separate treatment. It still looks like they each run a little long of the 250 word limit, but I feel I only took the amount of space needed to say what needed to be said. (Hey, you asked for letters didn’t you? Besides, I’m no journalist.) I offer them each to you, starting with the “startling” stuff, then my thoughts on online textbook buying. Feel free to print them together, separately, one or the other, or not at all. This introduction included. –M.M.


I’d like to tell you about a little-known but wonderful office here at Western Kentucky University. It’s called Interlibrary Loan, or ILL. Located on the ground floor of Helm library (way in the back corner, room 107), ILL serves to locate and borrow from other libraries books, videos, etc not available in Western’s library for faculty, staff, and students. As a part-time instructor and long-time student, I’ve grown to love ILL, and I use it often. Unfortunately, new policies have recently been enacted that will result in lowered effectiveness of this necessary (and under-appreciated) service.

Today while submitting a book request via ILL’s online forms, this “pop-up” message popped-up in the corner of my browser window: Effective immediately, Interlibrary Loan will no longer borrow class textbooks from other libraries. Students should buy textbooks from the bookstore. What’s that about? Well, money, obviously. But I have a few questions I’d like to pose:

First of all, I’d like to know how this measure will be enforced. Will ILL staff be required to cross-reference any book requests with a blacklist of required student texts? I imagine that would be quite a list! And it would change every semester! Will I, as an instructor, now be required to submit to ILL a list of textbooks I require for my classes? What happens if I, as a student, wish to request a book through ILL that happens to be a required text for a class I’m not enrolled in? In other words, can students request books from ILL that are required for other classes, one’s they aren’t enrolled in? If so, won’t students attempting to save a little money just do it for each other? Is this less work for ILL staff, or more? Does this increase the effectiveness of their service, or lessen it? And for whose benefit is all of this, students or bookstores?

Perhaps the next move will be the removal of all books from our library that is also a classroom text. Is it too much to expect an institution of higher education to place knowledge and learning above bookstore profits?

Marx Marvelous, 1/13/04


I’m on the ball this year, and it wasn’t even a New Year’s resolution. Eager to begin a fresh semester (as all we students are), I contacted my professor ahead of time to get a list of books I’d be needing for his class. (Eagerness is easier when taking only one class per semester.) Since the books would have ample time to be shipped, I decided to do a little comparison shopping online. And, boy, am I glad I did! My results were extremely gratifying. Check this out:

Five books were required for this class. (For brevity’s sake I don’t list the names of the books, and all prices have been rounded to the nearest dollar. I would also note that these results may not be typical for every class offered here at WKU, but it’s certainly worth checking out!) Here’s how the used prices I found online (Amazon.com, for example) compare with the prices for the same books at our own university bookstore (in my experience I’ve found little price difference between the college bookstore and Lemox). All prices for “used” unless otherwise indicated:

Book 1: online- $3 bookstore- $22 (used not available)

Book 2: online- $5 bookstore- $18 (used not available)

Book 3: online- $4 bookstore- $19

Book 4: online- $2 bookstore- $13

Book 5: online- $28 bookstore- $50

Total cost of the texts I bought used from the internet, including shipping and handling? $59. Total cost for same books from the university bookstore? $122, a difference of 63 big-uns! While every case might not reflect such dramatic savings, in my case I could have bought my texts from the bookstore instead of online and paid more than double, even without the high shipping costs for each individual book.

So my question for the bookstore owners and WKU faculty or staff whose feathers might be ruffled by this report is this: If I, a regular Joe with relatively zero business experience, can find cheaper (much cheaper) books, why can’t the professionals?

Marx Marvelous, 1/13/04