Since the university switched its online platform for buying and renting textbooks from Barnes and Noble to Akademos, many students have had difficulty receiving their class material on time.
Akademos’ learning experience team reported contacting 289 Augustana students with issues involving their orders or needing help accessing online materials this fall.
“I ordered my books four weeks before school started, and one of my books didn’t come until the second week of school, causing me to miss homework,” sophomore Summer Stoll said.
Stoll also mentioned that some of her books arrived in crushed boxes with writing all over them. Akademos had described the books as being in “good condition.”
Sophomore Amber Schulz also ordered her textbooks online through Augustana and struggled with her nutrition e-book. She received a code to access the online textbook, but it did not work.
“I spent $80 on absolutely nothing,” Schulz said.
She was eventually refunded and received a new code, but not all students had the same experience. Sophomore Emily Sprecher said she is still waiting for a refund on a book that she returned in August.
“I ordered a used textbook with a new access code, and the textbook came used with no access code, so I had to send it back,” Sprecher said.
Sprecher said she had many issues with Akademos’ customer service when trying to get a refund.
According to Sprecher, customer service did not efficiently respond to her emails. When she received a response, she was told she would receive a new textbook and access code, but not exactly when either would arrive.
Sprecher found and ordered the textbook on a different site while waiting for customer service to respond. When the textbook from Akademos arrived a couple weeks later, Sprecher returned it, but she has yet to receive a refund.
Difficulties receiving textbooks on time have also caused problems for specific classes like First Year Seminar. FYS director Beth Boyens said that many freshmen were unable to get “A Writer’s Reference,” a required text for all FYS classes, because Akademos did not order enough books.
Akademos didn’t predict all enrolled freshmen would order “A Writer’s Reference,” according to Renee Milstein, the vice president of operations and e-commerce at Akademos. The online bookstore also used past sales from previous years with lower enrollment numbers to gauge future orders and was left in short supply.
Boyens said that Akademos was very responsive and helpful with finding alternatives for the book, such as e-books and loose-leaf versions. Most FYS professors wanted all students to have the physical book and access code, though, in order to complete online assignments.
“A lot of faculty were wanting to use these books within the first week or two of class, and not all their students had them,” Boyens said.
While Boyens said all of the students in her class received their books on time, other FYS classes had to be flexible for the first few weeks of school. Some professors moved things around in their syllabi, while others created their own assignments in place of online activities.
Boyens has been in continual contact with Augustana’s Akademos representative and got students a free online book until the physical copies are back in stock. She said she trusts Akademos will restock the book.
Milstein said that the company has faced challenges this fall due to “widespread global supply chain issues.”
“The first [issue] is a paper shortage, which has in some cases limited what publishers are able to print or the quantities they are able to deliver to us,” Milstein said in an email. “The second is a shortage of available resources at our partner warehouses to receive and distribute books and other course materials.”
These challenges have contributed to the issues many Augustana students have had with receiving books on time.
To mitigate this issue, Akademos provides digital options and is ordering earlier to “ensure on-time delivery” once items are in stock. Milstein also said that Akademos has also added more shifts and support on weekends with its warehouse partners to help ensure textbooks go out on time in the future.
Though Akademos is working to improve its reliability, many Augustana students said they’ve been telling people to look at other options the next time they need books. Emily Sprecher said she recommends students buy their books new if they are going through Akademos, but she generally does not have confidence in the new bookstore after her experience.
Despite the issues Akademos has caused for FYS classes, Boyens is hopeful next semester will go more smoothly after her last conversation with the company.
“I feel like they are committed to doing better next semester,” Boyens said. “I think they were not prepared for the number of students at Augustana who would choose to have a book in their hands.”
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