With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

Summary: I just want to actually have my textbook in my hands at some point before I have to sit down and take my midterm. Is that too much to ask, USPS?

SHARE:

There's been a lot of buzz lately about Apple's "textbook transformation."

Apple fans and textbook fans alike have been salivating at the prospect of all the beautiful interactive textbooks for $15, ergonomic freedom from heavy book-filled knapsacks, and goodies like digital flashcards.

Others have been worried about a widening digital divide, since the buy-in for the iPad (a breakable device in the hands of students) is so high, and textbooks are already inaccessible to so many needy kids.

Concern for publishers and their content has caused Apple to be accused of being evil in their licensing practices. A backlash of outcry against "greedy" publishers has brought to light some criticisms of the textbook industry in general.

All I want is my damn book!

That's right. I want the book I ordered on January 13, at the start of my College Algebra class.

To make a long story short, I have the AS degree which enabled me to become licensed as an RN, but I also have to get an AA to be able to pursue my BSN. So, while working, I've been finishing up the classes I need, one-by-one, in order to matriculate to UCF.

The second I got the syllabus, I ordered the book on my husband's Amazon account. I expected to wait an extra day or two because the post office was closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a United States federal holiday. But the wait for the book is going on two weeks, which is getting ridiculous.

I have been tracking the book daily with my trusty tracking number. I have watched it travel to two sorting facilities in North Carolina, swing by Dallas, TX, pop in to say hi in Springfield, MA, and joyride through Jersey City, NJ. There it's been sitting for the past two days. I'm in Florida. Each day it travels farther and farther away from me.

I love algebra. Why doesn't my book want to be with me?

I called the USPS on their 800-number, and somehow managed to finally reach a clueless human. They can tell me where my book is, but not where it's headed, or when it will get here. Presumably it's still headed here, although why it went north to go south is still a mystery. Just another part of the well-publicized post office meltdown of late, I guess. If this is what things look like before their coming "slow-down," I dread seeing what it looks like after.

My college bookstore price gouges frightfully on new and used books alike, so I bought a used one from an Amazon reseller, instead of buying a new one from Amazon. I could have had two day shipping (because my husband is an Amazon Prime member) if I'd been willing to spend the exorbitant amount they wanted for a new textbook. But the last new textbook I bought from Amazon didn't arrive in new condition, and it was full price, so I sent it back. Also, it's probably fair to point out that not every student has the $79 a year to spend on an Amazon Prime membership.

At this point, I sure would love one of those e-textbooks, whether whispersent to my Kindle, or downloaded to the family iPad. To have it for $15 would be a dream. Heck, to have it for the $75 used price would be okay, too (although I'm counting on reselling this one when I'm done with it, and would be unable to if I downloaded a digital version). There is, unfortunately, no digital version available anywhere for this particular text. I just simply want to actually have it in my hands at some point before I have to sit down and take my midterm.

Don't tell me this isn't about health. Education is part of health, and being this stressed out about a thing isn't healthy. So there's your health angle.

Last semester I used Pearson's excellent MathXL for a different hybrid online math class, but was unable to make use of it on the iPad because if the iPad's bizarre no Flash restriction. That math program would have been so perfect on that tablet, it was a real shame not to be able to use it. It would be nice if publishers, on their way to signing their souls away to Apple, could negotiate something where their ancillary products would actually work on the iPad. But I digress.

In the meantime, I'll be looking for algebra videos on YouTube and Khan Academy, and relying on my class notes and other online resources.

See also:

Topics: iPad, Amazon, Apple, CXO, Health, Legal, Mobility, IT Employment

About

Denise Amrich is a Registered Nurse, the health care advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, and a mentor for the Virtual Campus at Florida's Brevard Community College.


Nothing in this article is meant to be a substitute for medical advice, and shouldn't be considered as such. If you are in need of medical help, please see your doctor.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

26 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

    "There is, unfortunately, no digital version available anywhere for this particular text."

    That's the reason why I never bought an e-reader when I was in college.

    I calculated the cost/benefit, and it would've been cheaper to get the e-reader - if my textbooks were available on it.

    Alas, such was not the case. None of my textbooks were available on it, and I couldn't justify getting it if I couldn't get my textbooks on it.

    You may have to just spend the money and get the book from the college's bookstore.
    CobraA1
  • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

    Never had a problem with USP myself.
    Hope it is just bad luck for that particular package.
    MoeFugger
  • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

    This makes no sense at all. I use the USPS for most of my ebay sales and I have never encountered anything like this. I have shipped all over the continental 48. Perhaps a visit to the local P.O. and speak to a postmaster. Maybe he/she can explain why this is happening.
    mstrsfty
  • Try here

    Try these at MIT online. At the bottom of the list is Algebra I & II.

    http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/
    What_the
    • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

      @What_the Thanks for the great link! What an awesome resource.
      Denise Amrich, RN
  • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

    Since you needed the book right away, you should have paid extra for expedited postage (Priority Mail). The book was obviously sent MEDIA RATE which is about the slowest service the PO offers, and if you aren't in a hurry, about the best value as well. Don't blame the PO because you cheaped out on the postage.............
    DannyNJ
    • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

      @DannyNJ Actually, I didn't need it right away. I needed it in 7-10 days. I took the media mail shipping time into consideration, based on extensive past experience. It has taken much longer than it should. Besides, we are discussing textbook vs. e-textbook viability here on ZDNet, and this is a factor in the topic. Thanks for commenting, though.
      Denise Amrich, RN
  • obvious mistake

    there has obviously some kind of mistake with this package. usps is very good for me. I buy many items a week from various places for my business. and its rare when something like this happens. someone probably marked wrong zip code or something while processing. usps is much better than UPS I can tell you that. and fedex is pretty decent too.
    cr34t0red
  • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

    Normally when a tracked package heads north like yours, the post office has determined that it is undeliverable. There is something wrong with the address.
    M.M.Grimes
    • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

      @M.M.Grimes Ooh, now I'm really worried about that poor book.
      Denise Amrich, RN
  • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

    @Denise

    apple didn't include flash on the ipad because it crashes all the time !!
    adobe finally agreed with them and stopped further development of flash for mobile devices

    also seach ck-12 @ the ibook store
    you will find
    CK-12 Basic Algebra Volume 1 and Volume 2
    they are free too :)
    irepairmacs
    • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

      @irepairmacs Thanks!
      Denise Amrich, RN
  • Slow USPS delivery is no longer an unusual experience

    I sell my used books on Amazon and I have to say that recently the quality of USPS delivery has degraded. I shipped a package on the morning of December 31, 2011. It was dropped off at the Post Office around 8:30am in the morning so I had a reasonable expectation it would leave the Post Office on 12/31/2011. Five business days later the package was listed as being scanned for departure at the SAME Post Office I dropped it off at. The package then spent a few days in North Carolina plus a few more in South Carolina. Then no more updates until it was delivered January 17, 2012. I filed a written complaint with the Post Office about the fact that the package sat at the local Post Office for 5 business days without movement. I was angry because it made it look as though I hung onto the package for 5 days before delivering it to the Post Office. Predictably I received NO response, presumably because they could not explain the lapse.

    I track shipment and delivery dates for all my books and recently about 25% of deliveries are subject to inexplicable delays. I used to be able to set my clock by USPS. Packages were delivered quickly and not a single one went missing. Priority Mail was amazingly efficient with delivery in 1-2 business days versus the 3-5 business days I am experiencing of late. Media Mail and Parcel Post were equally efficient in the past but no longer.

    We can all thank Congress for saddling USPS with a pension prepayment plan that is bankrupting USPS and causing services and jobs to be cut. If you really care about the degraded USPS mail service you may want to contact your Senator and Congressman to report your experiences.
    sandawana
    • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

      @sandawana Thank you for the really good information. That about tracks with my experience, as well. I used to sell a lot of used books on Amazon and media mail took, on average 4 days (although they generally estimate 7-10), which is why I felt comfortable ordering from someone who was using it. Those days are over, I guess. Thanks again!
      Denise Amrich, RN
      • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

        @Denise Amrich, RN

        USPS service and quality is bad for everything except letters and junk mail. i got a round box once. Like a ball. It contained what had, at one time, been an expensive vacuum-tube audio amplifier. Adressing complaints to USPS for the carnage had the same result as turning on the lights in a dirty kitchen, the cockroaches scatter. USPS has brought about its own doom by destroying goods and refusing to pay. UPS is the same, always break never pay.
        opcom
  • Degraded quality of service equals reduced customer base

    I should also add that I've been on the receiving end of poor USPS delivery. I ordered a used book from Amazon about 6 months ago. Three weeks after ordering I contacted the seller for a status. The seller advised that the package shipped the same day of the order. The seller advised she was contacting USPS herself to track the package but she received no useful information. We decided to wait it out because it was not an urgent purchase for me. 45 days later I received the book. It was post marked the day I ordered it so USPS took a full 45 days to deliver it.

    I've also had packages with Delivery Confirmation delivered to our neighbors (some of whom kindly re-routed the packages to us). I'm assuming my birthday gift was received by one of our neighbors or just went missing in the USPS system because sadly, I did not receive it.
    sandawana
  • If it helps you, there is a free college algebra textbook online

    Published by Flat World Knowledge and written by John Redden, Professor of mathematics at the College of the Sequoias.

    Free to read online, no login required > http://flat.ly/x8IQfM
    mobrienma
    • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

      @mobrienma Sweet! With awesome readers like this, who needs physical textbooks (or the USPS)?
      Denise Amrich, RN
  • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

    That's why you drop the extra $5 for expedited shipping... Media Mail is NOTORIOUS for taking months to be delivered, if it isn't altogether lost. Good luck!
    jmwells21
  • RE: With a postal service like this one, we need e-textbooks

    There are certain postal rules and regulations surrounding the use of "Media Mail" for shippers. Only books and media may be shipped in this manner and the rate is lower, so it's desirable for Amazon to use this shipping method. But occasionally the post office will open these types of packages for inspection to make sure the shipper is adhering to all the "Media Mail" rules. This may account for your delay. My husband runs an online book store and has seen this phenomena less than half a percent of the time. When this occurs, the package does tend to go on a circuitous route to strange locations, presumably places where "Media Mail" can properly be inspected? Or maybe it's just a postal anomaly. We've had excellent reliable service (NEVER once had a package not delivered) from USPS, so I would say just be as patient as you can be.
    JustLori