Category: Course Materials

Notes from an Insider


The holiday break is a busy time of year at the Duck Store. By the time Fall finals are done, we’ve bought and processed tens of thousands of books at buyback, switched the shelves to Winter term and started shelving earnestly with dreams of textbooks dancing in our heads. Seriously—I have more work dreams than I care to actually admit.

Students get a couple of weeks out of school, heading back to families and friends and winter break work hours. The Insider blog isn’t taking any breaks (though the Insider gets one). continue reading >>

Notes from an Insider

Stack of books

Hello from SLC Utah, no I’ve not changed allegiances—simply on a quick trip in the mountains, catching up with the family and forgetting about deadlines.

That’s OK because I have a simple subject to talk about: feedback. It’s a subject I’ve touched on before while noting that, in spite of the nature of this blog, I rarely get comments. The few I have gotten either seemed to be spam or were from old friends (we miss you Rich!)

I’m always a little surprised at the lack of comments; with a subject like textbooks I would expect at the very least to get flamed a time or two.

Of course I’m conscientious about the blogs I write, try to back up my claims with facts, check my math, remove names from stories and have people proofread even before it is sent to the editor. However, it’s not just the blog that I’m talking about when I talk about comments, I mean in real life too. continue reading >>

Notes from an Insider

Stack of Textbooks

I was at a big box bookstore this weekend (yes, even I shop at other stores) The purpose? Find some inexpensive DVDs. While we were there we picked up Steven King’s It and The Shining, as well as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The fact that all three movies had a 6-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon type of connection was a complete fluke. They added up to a little over $12. I could see I had gotten a deal because the non-sale prices were clearly labeled on the covers.

If I had gone to a local DVD outfit (I do that, too) and purchased the same DVDs, I likely would have paid something closer to their full retail price. Would I get mad at the clerk because this local company wasn’t able to give the discs to me for 66% off? Would I loudly declare the store to be poorly run because I knew of a place where I could get the exact same item for cheaper? No, no I wouldn’t.

The economics of local versus national businesses is plain enough to know that the big box bookstore can negotiate with DVD manufactures and distributors to get discounts. The company is able to buy thousands of copies at a time and distribute to branches nationwide from a central location as needed. I’ve also heard that this particular chain is suffering financially and may in fact be trying to liquidate inventory in order to reposition themselves.

Compare that to the local store, whose selection is probably limited because they [...]
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Notes from an Insider

Tower of Books

One of the biggest mistakes that a student can make when shopping for books is predetermining that it will be a difficult process. Fall term especially, with the influx of new students (and often parents) we see people coming in not knowing what to expect but preparing for the worst. In a way this is good—you always want to be prepared—but at book rush I’ll find students saying; “It wasn’t that bad”, all day long.

Though this is aimed at the younger students, I’m sure it can be helpful to those who have a couple of years under their belt: a few tips to make your shopping experience smoother. continue reading >>

Notes from an Insider

IStock Textbooks

This is the third part in a series about university textbooks and other course materials. You can read the first installment HERE. >>

The Duck Store is not oblivious to student needs.

As I stated early on in this series, it’s not any wonder why students get cantankerous about textbooks. Students need low cost textbooks that are easy to buy and, when it comes to selling them, to be offered all the money the store can afford to pay. continue reading >>

Notes from an Insider


This is the second part in a series about university textbooks and other course materials. You can read the first installment HERE. >>

The Duck Store does not make a shameful profit on buyback.

So you paid $90 for a new book at the beginning of the term, you used it well and it’s still in good condition. Certainly you can go back to the bookstore and get big money for it, right? What? Only $15 (wholesale)? What a rip, how can someone NOT be getting rich on this deal? continue reading >>

Notes from an Insider

Book Mountain

College bookstores suffer from a problem: their main product is an unwanted burden on students. Want to go out on Saturday night? Nope, have to stay home and read my o-chem textbook. Want to buy drinks for while you study on Saturday night? Nope, I spent all my money on my o-chem textbook. Want to go out for a drink the Saturday after finals? Nope, the bookstore only paid me $15 for my o-chem textbook. Want the courage to ask that pretty person out on Saturday night? Well, you can’t blame everything on the o-chem book and, by extension, the bookstore.

College bookstores face a lot of legitimate criticism. Many stores operate on cutthroat budgets, run by universities that only see it as a revenue stream. While college bookstores and the college bookstore industry should be scrutinized, not all college stores are created equal. continue reading >>

Notes from an Insider

IStock EBooks

Several hundred thousand dollars; that is as close as I’m saying to the figure that our in-store rental program has saved students so far. Right now the big game in textbook innovation town is rentals. Our in-store rentals only cover about 5% of the titles we offer each term. Through careful selection this small number of titles actually covers a good portion of the high cost books for larger enrollment courses.

We are of course growing our in store program; our online rental program still has a lot to offer too. This always receives at least a passing mention but it is really a terrific resource for students and terribly under-utilized. The books are cheap, are delivered right to your door and are free to return.

I suggested this program to a student who complained of the following predicament; continue reading >>

Notes from an Insider

Many books

If you have not read Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker it’s worth a read. The premise of the book is to prepare a person to evaluate tense situations and deal with difficult people. Appropriately I’m reading this book during Finals week, an entire week dedicated to making university students tense. As is per usual one of my posts wouldn’t be complete without referencing Cracked. For those of you too busy this week to read something extra-curricular, the first thing it says is that large, cumulative finals are bad for learning. I’m not sure that matches to my experience but I see the point.

One thing I’m absolutely sure of is that the combined stress of Finals week and selling books makes people tense. Also, even at 29 I don’t get enough recess.

My favorite times at work tend to be when it is busiest. It’s stressful and there are a thousand things to concentrate on. If you’re lucky you get to half of them. It’s a challenge, and a big part of that is mental. Anyone who has worked retail can recount a thousand stories of being unjustly berated by a customer who mistook you for a co-worker who treated them poorly—or had to walk into a situation where a customer has already been fuming.

Gift of FearGift of Fear speaks of the physiological reaction people have to tense situations and concludes that when you stop having these types of reactions (for [...]
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Notes from an Insider

March Notes from an Insider

According to the potty mouths over at, the phrase; “Carpe diem”, should mean something more along the lines of; “Get your work done now, before it’s too late.” Carpe diem, let’s walk through how Spring term textbooks make it on the shelf.

It starts with an adoption request from a faculty member or department. This adoption request identifies a specific book or group of books for a particular class. Spring term adoptions started coming in during the second week of January.

Every piece of information regarding the books arrives through the adoption process. If your professor doesn’t adopt a book, we don’t know that it is being utilized. The ISBN, the required or optional status, what sequence it is read in, all comes to us on this request from a professor.

That doesn’t automatically put it in the computer though; before it shows up here a lot more work goes into it. The first step is with our order coordinator. She looks for anomalies, known issues or possible issues.

For each of these issues the coordinator will contact the professor with possible solutions. Is it OK to switch to the paperback (or is there something special about the hardcover)? Since the book is out of print, does the professor want to create a course packet from the book or choose a different book? Is the old edition ok for a course since the new edition does not come out until week 4 of the term? Only after this has been completed, are [...]
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