Understocked bookstore causes first-week pickle

Students and instructors find books and clickers are sold out.

Tyler Gieseke

Students swarmed the University of Minnesota Bookstore in Coffman Union the first week of the fall semester searching for textbooks and class materials.

Some of them left disappointed.

“Every time I’ve looked, they’re out of stock,” said Sophia Stembridge, a computer science freshman who was searching for an eClicker for her physics class.

Students and professors have complained that the bookstore tends to understock, leaving them in a bind.

Stembridge said about half of her physics class couldn’t secure the necessary eClicker because the bookstore ran out, and it has affected class.

“We’ve actually had to not do questions,” she said Thursday.

The bookstore’s orders are based off enrollment estimates from professors and past sales data, store director Bob Crabb said.

Between professors’ estimates and the bookstore’s, there can be mistakes, he said.

Issues with stocking have happened in years past as well. Sociology professor Joel Samaha said for his courses it’s imperative that students have all the materials on the first day of class. For this reason, he’s had conflicts with the bookstore.

“I’ve had a long experience with the bookstore and not ordering enough books,” he said.

But he said he sympathizes with them now because there’s more complexity due to alternative textbook stores like Amazon.

“My views are pretty strong: The bookstore has under-ordered. But that’s in the past,” he said.

He added, “Sometimes it’s because I don’t get my book orders in on time.”

Book orders, called “adoptions,” are due from professors a few months before a given semester, Crabb said.

It includes the book title, the course enrollment estimate and whether the item is required. Samaha said he estimates course enrollment based on past registration.

After receiving this information, Crabb said, the bookstore looks at past data of copies sold relative to actual enrollment to determine how many books they’ll need in stock. Finally, it subtracts the number of books they expect will be sold back from the previous semester to determine the number to order.

“If it looks like we can buy back more than we’ve estimated, we’ll reduce the order,” Crabb said.

But incorrect estimates and out-of-stock publishers can be costly for students, Crabb said.

History junior Robert Andrade said Thursday that a book on Central American revolutions he needed was out of stock.

It didn’t worry him too much, though. He said he planned to buy the book on Amazon instead.

An incident his freshman year was “more distressing than this one.”

A chemistry textbook he needed didn’t arrive until about two weeks into the class, and he said he didn’t have enough time to study for a test.

When the book finally arrived at the bookstore, “they just said, ‘Sorry,’” Andrade said.