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Wednesday, January 26, 2000

  • Textbooks sold on-line 'at a loss'
  • Seminar will judge UW's finances
  • Staff asked for their comments
  • Computing courses are offered
  • What's what on a winter Wednesday

[Lineup outside SCH]
Buying books the old-fashioned way: students lined up outside South Campus Hall in the first week of September.

Textbooks sold on-line 'at a loss' -- by Barbara Elve (abridged from today's Gazette)

With on-line book sellers attempting to lure students away from university bookstores with "unbelievable savings", the textbook wars are heating up.

At UW, May Yan won't guarantee university bookstore prices are the lowest. What she does promise are competitive prices and the best service for students.

On-line companies are attempting to undercut Canadian university bookstore prices, as well as the country's independent book sellers, but such tactics come with a cost, says Yan, UW's director of retail services, whose domain includes the bookstore and computer store. "Consumers think they're getting a deal, but they don't see the long term implications. The trend, as with department stores, is to undercut and eliminate the competition, then raise prices."

On-line sites such as Chapters "operate under a very different business model than the UW bookstore," says Yan. "Huge losses are the accepted norm for the on-line industry. These losses are subsidized by investors or other company divisions as the on-line sellers attempt to create a long-term market in the on-line book business. If the UW bookstore were to sell at similarly subsidized prices, the students would ultimately end up paying more through increased tuition costs to cover the loss. We cannot do this."

Planning graduate student Jason Whitfield says he saved more than $10 by purchasing Interpreting Qualitative Data from an on-line company. And it's not the first time he's found better deals off campus. Yan counters with examples of texts sold cheaper at the bookstore: Algorithms for Computer Algebra (with discounts factored in), $104.63 at the bookstore, $204.03 at Chapters; Computer Methods for Circuit Analysis and Design, $118.58 at the bookstore, $189.50 at Chapters.

While Whitfield's text was delivered promptly to his home, that's not always the case, said Yan, noting that delivery of on-line purchases can take three to five weeks.

"We offer the convenience of having the textbook available immediately without having to wait for delivery." As well, the bookstore provides a complete package of course materials -- notes, lab manuals, solution books, references, etc. -- with texts, from one on-campus location. Students can also get on-site refunds on texts without the hassle of packaging and mailing books for refunds. And in an effort to reduce the lineups at the beginning of each term, the Bookstore launched ExpressBooks, its own on-line ordering system, in the fall of 1998.

UW is one of the few Ontario universities that offer discounts on bookstore texts, she added. While most others sell at the suggested retail price, the UW bookstore offers a 10 per cent discount on general books, 7 per cent off texts, and a 10 per cent savings on ExpressBooks.

Seminar will judge UW's finances

A "special seminar" on how well UW manages its money is scheduled for this morning at 10:30 in Davis Centre room 1302.

"Plans were not confirmed until yesterday," says Pat Moore in the office of UW's faculty association, which is sponsoring the session. The speaker is Ronald-Frans Melchers, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa whose study of university budgets is sponsored by the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

An analysis of university funding over the past 25 years appears in the most recent issue of CAUT's Education Review. "Most of what can be concluded from the accumulated data," says a summary on CAUT's web site, "may seem depressingly familiar -- for example, that government funding has failed to match enrolments. But just below the surface emerges a less familiar story: how those charged with financial management are actively reshaping the Canadian university and undermining its core functions."

Today's seminar, a notice from the faculty association says, "is open to all faculty, students and staff. It represents an opportunity to learn more about the manner in which university budgets are managed, how well they are managed, and how budget management at UW compares with others in Ontario and the rest of Canada."

And Melchers provides this abstract: "The data base of standardized fiscal statistics of Canadian universities collected since 1972 by the Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO), as reported by the Statistics Canada Centre for Education Research, has been analyzed in detail in terms of well-defined income and expenditure classes in order to produce comparable individual university, and provincial and Canadian averages. How the management of UW finances stacks up against the average Ontario and Canadian performances will be discussed. Illustrations will be presented to show the university revenue by source, expenditures by type, by fund, and by function, and surpluses/deficits by source."

Staff asked for their comments

Paul McKone, president of the staff association, has put out a request for comments about salaries and other staff-related issues, following the "Presidents' Forum" last week in which the heads of UW, the faculty association and the Federation of Students spoke in the Student Life Centre.

Questions at the forum, McKone says in his electronic letter to association members, "centred around tuition increases, student housing, bicycle vandalism, 'green' campus policies, and proposed faculty salary increases. The questions were asked by a panel of three students, along with input from the audience, and the three presidents ably -- and I'd say fairly and appropriately -- answered them all. There were no staff-related questions, which isn't really surprising, as I think the forum was intended to be mostly of interest to students -- reflected in the make up of the panels of questioners and respondents.

"The one question that was likely of interest to staff was that of faculty salary increases. Both presidents acknowledged the importance of salary in attracting (and keeping) good faculty, and both stated that a good working environment was also a requirement.

"With that as a long preamble, if you (as staff members) had been at the forum, and if we (as the Staff Association) had been on the panel, what questions would you have asked? What suggestions could you make for improving the working environment at UW? What do you see as our strengths -- things to leave untouched, and weaknesses -- areas for change, improvement, or elimination?

"As you likely know, the Provost's Advisory Committee is starting to compile information to make [salary] recommendations for this year. What would you like to see the recommendations include? I'm not looking for diatribes against faculty increases, or impossible demands for sweeping change; instead I'm looking for input that can be used to make UW not just a good place to work, but a better place to work."

There have already been a few responses to his letter in the staff discussion newsgroup, uw.staffassoc, and McKone said yesterday he's also had a number of letters in reply.

Computing courses are offered

The information systems and technology department (IST) is offering several computing courses in February to UW faculty, staff and students. There is no charge for these courses.

Most of the courses in February are Web based, and two of the popular courses from January are being repeated, says Bob Hicks, who provides this list of the courses available next month:

More information, as well as a course registration form, can be found on the Web.

What's what on a winter Wednesday

Chris Read of UW's housing and residence office says he will be in the Student Life Centre "for most of the day" today, starting at 9:30, "to answer questions about on-campus housing options for students next fall. Our newly renovated 'Beck Hall', currently the East Tower, at the UW Apartments will be open in fall '00, and application will be available for that facility, as well as the Columbia Lake Townhouses." Or he can be reached (except today) at ext. 2641; the main housing office number is ext. 3704.

A "bake sale and garage sale" will be held in the Environmental Studies I courtyard today, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Proceeds go to support the fourth-year environment and resource studies field trip to Texas and Mexico.

The career development seminar series continues with "Gain the Competitive Edge: Know the Employer", at 10:30 a.m. in Needles Hall room 1020.

The "Go high-tech, stay local" career fair, sponsored by local businesses through Communitech, continues from 10:00 to 4:00 today in Federation Hall. High-technology firms are, an ad says, "recruiting for both full-time and co-op positions in the areas of software development, computer engineering, sales & marketing, technical support, electrical/electronic engineering."

The InfraNet Project presents a talk today by Mike Lazaridis, president of Research in Motion Ltd., on "Connecting Canadians Through Smart Mobile Technologies". RIM is one of the big success stories among UW spinoff companies, particularly for its hand-held BlackBerry e-mail unit, and Lazaridis will tell some of the story:

The Internet phenomena has demonstrated that people desire to interact with organized real-time information as much, if not more, than with people. The information content on the Internet continues to grow, becoming more organized, and more attractively bundled and packaged for all market segments. As the Internet, and the number of people who use and depend on it continues to grow, the need for any-time, any-where access to this information will become essential. The need to interact with this vast information and commerce base, receive and initiate email, and interact with others requires a wireless always-on, always-connected interactive wearable wireless technology. Mr. Lazaridis will describe the future of wearable wireless Internet devices, the possibilities and limitations of wireless data technologies, and some potential Internet services.
His talk starts at 2:30 in Davis Centre room 1302.

Michael Higgins, president of St. Jerome's University, will give the annual Faculty of Arts Lecture at 3:30 in the Theatre of the Arts, under the title "Five Quirky Moments: An Enchiridion for the Wise". "This talk," the poster explains (explains?), "is an admittedly eccentric survey of five luminous moments in our human unfolding. It is about wisdom -- discernment of and possession by -- and it is about folly, sweet reason's antidote." Be there or be square.

"If you like answering questions with questions," says a notice from the Math Society, "if you like free cookies, if you like engaging in a battle of wits," then you'll probably want to be in the "comfy lounge" on the third floor of the Math and Computer building at 6:30 tonight. The occasion: a session of "The Question Game (As Seen in 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead')". "Come on out," says MathSoc social director Stephen Skrzydlo. "Whether you're a self-proclaimed expert, or someone who has no idea what I'm talking about, you'll enjoy yourself, trust me."

Finally, sports tonight: the hockey Warriors host Western at 7:30 in the Icefield. And there's a basketball double-header, with the women's team playing at 6:00 and the men's team at 8:00 (Waterloo vs. McMaster). At the basketball games, in the Physical Activities Complex main gym, there will be "free giveaways and draw prizes" sponsored by the Bombshelter pub.


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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