Students looking to buy their textbooks this semester are getting more of a struggle than they bargained for, as the Campus Bookstore’s shelves have been reorganized by word count.
While new freshmen may not bat an eye at this system, any student who has been here for at least a year will notice a stark shift from the bookstore’s prior system, which grouped books by subject and class. While the new system was intended to make finding books easier, many students are finding it more frustrating than helpful.
Lennie Rand, manager of the Campus Bookstore, went into detail explaining the ideas behind the change. “We felt the old way of setting them up was sort of biased toward people who were in classes. We want our customers to be as diverse as the student body itself, and that means opening our doors not just to people who are taking classes here. Sure, it may have been easier to find the books for your class before, but how were non-class-takers supposed to find anything? Can you think of any other bookstore in town that has a system like our old one? It just didn’t make sense!”
George Huxley, a third-year bio student, is less enthusiastic about the change, stating: “I understand why, but … no, actually, I understand that they did this, but I really don’t get why. I used to walk in the bookstore at the start of the semester and get everything before it was busy, but now I have to wait for my teachers to hand out syllabusses (sic) so that I know which books to look for.”
Mary Blake, a friend and classmate of Huxley, elaborated on these remarks, noting that it can often be hard to figure out how many words a book has. “Only half of my professors even remembered to put the word counts on the syllabus, so there are a few books I’ve had to find pictures of online and then judge if they look larger or smaller than the one’s I’m standing near.”
“I have been putting word counts on my syllabi for ages and this new system is still troublesome for me.” Said Hermann Goethe, a 95-year-old professor of everything who speaks like Werner Herzog. “The trouble is that I always counted publishing and copyright information in my totals, but the new bookstore system only goes by words within the book itself, plus supplementary materials such as introductions and foot notes. Just because there is a page that literally no person will ever read doesn’t mean it ought to be removed from the book like that.”
Another reason critics have found issue with the bookstore’s layout is that certain kinds of books are much more difficult to calculate the word count for than others—namely, picture books and graphic novels. Students have raised questions regarding the consideration of sound effects and words that exist within the illustrations.
“If a dude is drawn walking past a sign that says, 'Hot Dogs', does that factor into the word count?” asked freshman Neil Miller. “Or what about if it’s in another alphabet or a made-up language or something? What then? All I know is that now I have no clue where to look for ‘Bionicle: Challenge of the Rakshi.'”
Rand later explained that the choice to switch things up went beyond what she had prior said, and really spoke to a long-standing desire for change in the system. “We were originally thinking we would do it all alphabetically by author, but then we remembered that many textbooks had multiple authors and that some are just published by educational companies without crediting any individuals. We realized that word count would be better because, in the context of a school bookstore, alphabetical by author would be a dumb idea and leave everyone confused, angry, or both.”