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Coursepacks Find New Outlets

Ravi P. Ramchandani

Students stand in line for coursepacks outside of Gnomon Copy on Mass. Ave. Many complained of the long waits and the unavailability of some coursepacks.

With the departure of the Harvard Printing and Publication Services (HPPS) from the printing business this past summer, citing cost inefficiency, students now must queue up for their coursepacks at two new locations, the Harvard Coop and Gnomon Copy.

The coursepacks, which are collections of published readings determined by the course professor, were previously distributed in the basement of the Science Center. Prior to last year’s shift to online ordering of coursepacks, HPPS coursepack distribution was often marked by long waits and perennial shortages.

Now, Core coursepacks are mostly sold at the Coop through an arrangement with the Core Office, while other non-Core coursepacks are sold at Gnomon Copy.

Despite some confusion over the new location of the coursepacks, many students say the service was somewhat improved.

“I feel like it is cheaper than the Coop, but the main problem is still the long lines,” said Elena I. Squarrell ’07, who purchased her Psychology 1603 coursepack from Gnomon Copy. “I prefer it to the Science Center, though, which seemed really disorganized.”

According to a statement on the HPPS website, increased competition has led to their decision to stop printing the coursepacks.

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“With dozens of printing vendors in or within walking distance of Harvard Square, and with numerous large outside printers doing business at Harvard the printing business has become increasingly competitive and price sensitive,” the statement reads. “This factor, in addition COURSEPACKS from Page 1

to technology changes (e.g. the printing of pay advices and telephone bills has been discontinued and are now viewed on-line) and the large seasonal variation in our print market due to the academic calendar, has led us to conclude that we have no other option but to cease operations.”

Both new locations, the Coop and Gnomon Copy, offer reserve forms for coursepacks that are out of stock. According to Coop textbook manager Bob Wuesthoff, the Coop has also developed a system with the Core Office to let the office know when the coursepack inventory is low.

“On a daily basis, we send them a spreadsheet of our inventory,” Wuesthoff said. “They are able to monitor this, receiving it around 10 a.m. daily. Based on the enrollment information, they determine if they need to get more coursepacks.”

Gnomon Copy, where most other coursepacks are being distributed, has also had long lines of students on many weekday afternoons. If students need coursepacks that are sold out, the store asks students to pre-pay and fill out a reserve form.

“You get a slip of paper, which you must have to pick up the coursebook,” said Mike, an employee at Gnomon Copy who declined to give his last name. “If you didn’t pay [for the coursepack] beforehand, then we would print out a lot of coursepacks that no one would pick up. This way, the student just has to take a little responsibility.

“Also, if you have a credit card, we could check that way,” he added, regarding what would happen if a student lost his slip of paper before redeeming it for a coursepack.

Down Mass. Ave. at the Harvard Coop, the combined crowds of students shopping for textbooks and coursepacks proved difficult to navigate.

“The Coop—period—was hectic,” said Christopher M. Ordoyne, a sophomore from Tulane University in New Orleans, who is spending the semester at Harvard. “It was just a ridiculous number of people doing a ridiculous number of things at the same time.”

No matter where the coursepacks are sold, steep prices continue to dominate student concerns. “It’s expensive,” said Tom R. Benson ’09. “I don’t know if I will read all of it.”

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