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Backordered textbooks cause students issues to stay on top of school work

While classes started in-person and online, some students were left without textbooks because of issues with production during COVID-19– which the Hawk Shop and Iowa Book felt the brunt of.


Brianna Brown

Stacked textbooks for the 2020 school year. In the first semester of the 2020 school year, textbooks from the Hawk Shop have been put on backorder due to manufacturers being closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has impacted Hawk Shop sales, as well as students’ ability to get books for the semester.

As students returned to a virtual campus this fall from all over the U.S. and even out of the country, ordering textbooks for classes became more complicated in Iowa City and beyond.

For the fall semester, the University of Iowa’s Hawk Shop decided to make some changes to the way students purchase and receive their books in order to maintain social distancing, Interim Director of the Hawk Shop Kirk Peterswrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. This decision limited the Hawk Shop to deliveries by mail and curbside pickup, he said.

“Over the summer, our team made the decision to expand online ordering and delivery services and close textbook aisles,” said Peters. “This was an effort to prevent overcrowding and long lines, which are frequently present in the beginning of each semester.”

Textbook manager at Iowa Book Virgil “Scooter” Hare said Iowa Book opted to continue in-person pick-up alongside options such as delivery and curbside pickup.

“In most cases, we strongly recommended the pickup in-store option and the vast majority of students have done that because very few people are in the text area at one time,” he said. “We had arrows and signs to ensure social distancing and all…The one issue was people calling after they ordered a book because they tested positive for COVID and they had to change their pickup plans.”

UI freshman Jillian Lang, who is studying neuroscience and anthropology, said another issue that plagued the textbook-buying process was backordered books. After purchasing a textbook for her anthropology class before school, Lang said she was not told the book would be backordered until after she purchased it.

“When I went to pick up my textbooks from the Hawk Shop, one was missing,” she said. “The receipt in the box said it was on backorder. It was a bit annoying…a couple days later my [text]book showed up and the Hawk Shop charged me for it when I had already bought it through Amazon, since I didn’t know if or when the book would show up.”

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At the Hawk Shop, this happened in a few cases after COVID-19 shut down certain facilities that make books, but Peters said it happens every year regardless.

“[Backordered books are] unfortunately not uncommon each semester; it feels amplified this semester due to the online order requirement,” he said. “Additionally, we have found that some publishers and wholesalers are seeing disruptions in service and delivery due to the ongoing COVID pandemic.”

At Iowa Book, Hare said this has happened for a few classes, but it hasn’t been a major issue. Iowa Book had to ask some publishers for books to be printed, which doesn’t take long, he said.

“A few publishers were doing print on demand which delays a book being delivered,” he said. “It was only for a few, small classes. For those, we just had to reorder them, but everything else has been somewhat normal…When we reordered [publishers] just needed to print books or books with an online element needed to be assembled, which was our only delay.”

Lang said it was a hassle to find the textbook after she thought the Hawk Shop would deliver it to her before classes.

“It was super difficult to get a replacement, because there was one left on Amazon and it was expensive,” she said. “If I hadn’t bought the book elsewhere, I would’ve been a week behind in that class.”

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