Thanks But No Thanks

Over the last few weeks I’ve received at least 15 desk copies of textbooks I haven’t requested. They came separately in vacuum sealed packages, in bulk in boxes with plastic air bubble thingies, and in one or two copies in those cardboard things with the tab you’re supposed to pull to open but never works and you end up tearing the thing apart while cursing whomever invented the packaging–well, at least I do.

At first, I just piled everything on the floor. I had no interest in the books and no intention of looking at them, so I figured the floor was good a place for them; they were out of the way, and the act of dropping them onto the floor made me feel a little better about having to haul them down from the main office two floors above my own. The pile eventually grew to the point it toppled over, but I just kept tossing them on the pile until one of the wonderful folks who take care to clean our offices asked to buff my floor on a day I was away from campus, and I didn’t feel right leaving the pile for one of them to deal with, and the pile began to take up more space than I could let go to waste and the

Then, I got pissed. At least every other week I engage in a conversation about or read something about the increasing costs of textbooks. Congress even passed a law–The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)–in 2008 that came into effect this July 1, 2010 designed to combat the increasing costs of textbooks.  I’ve asked my local book reps not to send me any books I haven’t requested, and I’ve done so multiple times. I get notices about new books, I check publisher’s Web sites, and we have a book fair each semester, so I have ample opportunities to check out the latest and greatest textbooks publishers have to offer. And when I order textbooks for my classes each semester, I do my best to keep costs down. And yet there on my floor were wasted copies of new textbooks representing hundreds of dollars in printing and binding costs.

Add to that the cost of packaging and shipping, the wear on the back of the UPS guy who has to haul huge boxes of these books up to the fifth floor each day, the time it takes for those boxes to be distributed to the appropriate recipient, and the environmental impact of all that cardboard, paper, plastic, ink, etc., and the waste and the costs that would be passed onto my students, and my blood began to boil.

Then I had an idea. This week is our twice yearly book fair, so why not return all those books I didn’t request to those responsible for my having received them? And today I did just that. I put together a box for each rep who’d sent me books piled on my floor and delivered them in person with a smile and polite reminder that I’d asked only to be sent books I’d requested, so I was returning these in hopes someone else might want them.

In the end, I don’t know if this will make any difference or not. I may well continue to receive copies of books I haven’t requested. But now I have a way to return these books that doesn’t cost postage, packaging, or all that much of my time. I’m going to clear some space to store all those unwanted desk copies, and I am not even going to open the packages. Then once each year I am going to return them to the person who sent them to me with a smile and a reminder that if I want a desk copy, I will request one.


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2 Responses to Thanks But No Thanks

  1. Doc says:

    Great idea! I hope you will share it with our colleagues. Is there a Senate rep in the department? If so, ask him or her to give the message to that body, too. Maybe if a school as big as __U adopts such a policy, textbook publishers will get the message.

  2. Good idea Doc. I will contact all 3 of my dept Senate reps. Perhaps, too, if publishers spend less on blanketing departments with desk copies, authors can reap a bit more for their work. Opps, forgot about capitalism for a moment there.

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