Publishers Fall Short on Textbooks

As the fall semester enters its fifth week, some University of Central Oklahoma students are still left looking for textbooks.

The textbook shortage’s existence varies by supplier at and around UCO’s campus.

“There is a shortage,” said John Beecher, store manager at Textbook Brokers.

This did not happen last year, or not to this extent, according to Beecher. However, Brenda Raimondi, UCO Bookstore manager, did not see a problem this year.

“There is not a shortage this year as compared to other semesters,” Raimondi said.

Beecher said that there are three main textbook publishers – Pearson, McGraw Hill and Cengage – all of which contributed to the shortage, with Pearson having the most issues. 

“They all came out with different programs for students designed to push digital products or rental programs,” Beecher said. “Publishers think ‘this will be huge,’ so they intentionally don’t print enough textbooks.”

Textbooks are generally ordered on July 1, according to Beecher, and it is unusual for those orders to still not be in.

The reasons behind textbooks not being available varies by book, but two main reasons were prevalent this year. Beecher said some books are usually print-on-demand, meaning publishers don’t keep the books in stock and only print them when ordered by bookstores.

“Print on demand titles take four to six weeks to print,” Beecher said. “What I don’t know is if they didn’t print enough to force the programs or if they thought [the programs] would be successful.”

The UCO Bookstore received some books that Textbook Brokers did not, however not enough came in and there are still students needing the book.

“I…know that we have two books that have over 20 students that still need the book,” Raimondi said. “It is due to the publisher being out of stock. They are due into the bookstore this week or next.”

Although Raimondi did not specify the books that had yet to come in, Beecher said that Textbook Brokers was still needing a Foundations of Geometry book for about 90 students and a pharmacology book for about 65 nursing students, as of Sept. 10.

In some select cases, textbooks selected for the courses are no longer being printed by the publisher and are out of circulation, making them in limited supply nationwide.

The shortage of select titles is not central to only UCO or Oklahoma. Beecher said he had talked to other bookstores around the country with similar problems. One example, Calhoun Community College Bookstore in Alabama did not have Accounting I and other beginning and intermediate math textbooks in yet.

“You know it’s a national problem because Amazon is out of stock [of the same books],” Beecher said.

There is no indication as to whether the publishers will continue to treat more textbooks as print-on-demand in the coming semesters. Demand for digital books is only 2-3 percent at Textbook Brokers, according to Beecher. He said students are mainly looking for whatever is cheapest for them.

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