February 26, 2010

University puts reading lists on Time Schedules Web site

Listing course texts online could close the book on students’ quarterly trips to the Seminary Co-op.

The University now links course listings on the Time Schedules Web site to course reading lists at Barnes and Noble and the Seminary Co-op, in preparation of a federal law allowing students to see how much their textbooks will cost before they register for classes. While a number of spring quarter courses have book lists, many professors still haven’t posted their required books.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act requires universities to publish both the retail price and ISBN numbers of textbooks before students choose courses. The change is effective this July, but the University began providing book lists a quarter early so that students can begin using the service as they pick their spring quarter classes, Associate University Registrar Jacqualyn Casazza said.

“The focus of this provision was to give students time to find cheaper books, so we felt that the sooner the links were available, the more students would benefit,” Casazza said.

As faculty place textbook orders with the two bookstores on campus, links activate on the Time Schedules Web site next to each course. The Registrar’s office plans to work with faculty to ensure that all book lists are posted promptly once the law goes into effect, Casazza said.

Many students, like first-year Maria Nelson, are frustrated with the old system and welcome the new book listings. “It was really inconvenient that they only released book lists a week before and that you had to go to the Seminary Co-op,” Nelson said. “It wasn’t conducive to ordering books online which, is ultimately cheaper for students.”

The Time Schedules Web site designates the University Barnes & Noble Bookstore at 58th Street and Ellis Avenue as the preferred provider for U of C textbooks, listing it before other booksellers. In 1995 the University reached an agreement with Barnes & Noble that the company would renovate and operate the bookstore in exchange for preferred online status. The Web site links to the Seminary Co-op as a secondary source for books. “Including a link to the Seminary Co-op on the Web site is a way to acknowledge that role and help a local business,” Casazza said.

First-year Margaret Straer, who normally buys course books at the Co-op, said she’ll use the new book lists to find a cheaper source of textbooks than either of the Hyde Park stores. “I’ll still go to the Co-op. But I’ll buy my [course] books on Amazon,” Straer said. Seminary Co-op manager Jack Cella doubts that online book lists will affect his sales. “I think a lot of people like to look at books [in person] and make a decision once they see them,” Cella said.