Like many universities across the country, this year Fordham has been working to comply with provisions of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) affecting textbook sales, and not incidentally make it easier—and sometimes less costly—for students to purchase books.
Provisions of the law relevant to textbooks took effect on July 1, 2010. Those provisions include: requiring institutions to provide International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) and prices for required and recommended textbooks and supplemental materials within or linked from course schedules used for registration purposes, to the maximum extent practicable; and requiring publishers to make components of certain bundled packages available separately.
The University’s main concern is ensuring that students have timely access to textbook information so that they can buy books from their preferred vendor on or before the beginning of classes. Partly toward that end, the University formed a committee chaired by Nicola Pitchford, Ph.D., associate vice president and associate chief academic officer, which includes representatives from the faculty and administration. Even prior to the committee’s formation, Pitchford and others had been working on improving the system.
Among other measures, Fordham and Barnes & Noble College Booksellers recently instituted Registration Integration, which links the University’s course registration website to the bookstore’s website, enabling students to see detailed information on required and suggested texts for each course. The program debuted in early February on all three of Fordham’s campuses.
“We want to be clear that while the information about texts is being made available to students from the online course list via the University Bookstore, it doesn’t mean students have to buy their books from Barnes & Noble,” Pitchford said. “On the contrary, this should give them the best possibility for shopping around and planning ahead, so they can get their books at the best price and in the most convenient way for them. That’s the whole intention of the new law.”
The registration integration system also allows Barnes & Noble to get real-time class enrollment estimates from the registrar’s office, ensuring that adequate numbers of textbooks are available for each class. The bookstore has instituted a straightforward mechanism for faculty to confirm that their textbook orders are correctly logged, simply by checking their course on the bookstore website. Barnes & Noble has also promised to improve order confirmation and follow-up with faculty.
“Giving the students more information about texts and costs is a very good thing,” said Mary Bly, Ph.D., professor of English and member of the textbook committee. “For many faculty members, it’s hard to plan months in advance what texts will work best for a course, especially if it’s a new course. Often, there isn’t time to design the course fully in the middle of the previous semester, but a lot of the time, we do know in advance most of the books and editions we’ll be using. If this will help get the students in class with the right books from day one, that’s in everyone’s best interests.”