Classbook: The New Online Bookstore for Students

By Ethan Woo ’16

Textbooks are expensive.  This is beyond obvious.  Class textbooks cost a small fortune, the average price being somewhere  between $500 and $800.  Groton underwent some drastic changes over the summer but one of the most controversial adjustments is ClassBook, a website that allows you to order  school books online rather than purchasing them in the bookstore.  The idea of digitally ordering textbooks is far more appealing than waiting in long lines, but its execution was not ideal.

Although one of the main concepts of ClassBook is that students would be able to pick up their books, ready to go, as soon as the students arrived on campus, a lot of textbooks had not arrived.  And, despite the passing days, the class materials still did not come, providing a major inconvenience for both the students and teachers.  Some students, during conference or lunch period, paid a daily visit to the bookstore, where they hoped Peggy Duffy would be waiting with a key to unlock the room in the back and hand them a heavy cardboard box containing their books.  But for most students, when they found the time to try and pick up their textbooks, found both the bookstore and the back room, empty.  Students had no way of knowing if their books were hours away from Groton School or right behind a nearby locked door.

If ClassBook is the cause of such blatant irritation for students, why bother sticking with the program next year?  The reason is a financial one.  Originally, Groton had to order books by a certain date, and by that time, there was no way of telling how many students would be in each class.  This means that even though a class will probably need forty textbooks, Groton has to order fifty for precautionary measures.  “And these books are pretty expensive,” says Jim Raney who works in the business office.  “Then later, we find out we only need forty and we have them shipped back but there’s shipping costs so we don’t get the full value in refunds.  But with ClassBook, it’s their responsibility.  They order the books so there’s less risk and we don’t lose money.”

In the event that students lose their textbook, they would have originally been able to walk into the bookstore and buy a replacement in less than ten minutes.  When addressed with this problem, Mr. Raney commented, “I get it, it’s far more convenient.  But it’s too expensive to run a bookstore this way.”  ClassBook is centered in New York so students can get replacements in a maximum time frame of two days.  Theoretically.

As for backorder, students must order their books by September 3rd in order to have them sent on the first ‘bulk shipment’ and be waiting for them on the first day.  “Any time after that, books will be delivered on the next bulk shipment to reduce shipping costs on their part,” Mr. Raney says.  To improve the punctuality of class materials, Groton has made an agreement with ClassBook regarding next year: If a student misses the initial bulk shipment deadline, ClassBook will deliver the textbooks ordered after that every single day despite the raised shipping costs.  This will greatly reduce the amount of books on backorder and it will make ClassBook much more convenient for everyone.

Kathy Leggat addressed the inconveniences many students experienced and invites direct criticism.  “I hope they’ll tell me what went right or wrong, not just, ‘it was awful,’” she says.  ClassBook may not have run as smoothly as desired but it is clear that next year it will be better.  “This is a new program for us too,” Mr. Raney concluded.  “We’re still trying to figure out how to make it work for us.”

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