UW News

February 1, 2007

Course packs now centralized at the University Book Store

UW News

Time was, students went to several campus copy center locations to find the supplemental reading material — course packs — required by their professors. And at those centers, lines would form with scores, sometimes hundreds of students anxiously awaiting their turn.

And time was, UW faculty who procrastinated over their course packs often felt they had to take them to businesses on University Way to get them printed with only a day or so to spare. Thoughts of securing copyright permission were, seemingly, not among the top priorities.

But now, UW Publications Services has made both processes more convenient, more UW-based and safer when it comes to copyright permission.

More and more, course packs are being sold at the University Book Store (at its main or south campus locations), right alongside their textbook companions. Also, a new software program is enabling Copy Services, a department of Publications Services, to secure copyright permissions far more quickly and store them in a database for subsequent use — which saves time and effort.

Copy Services is promoting the new method with a Web presentation featuring five main points: It’s fast, convenient, free, legal and smart. And not only that, said Katy Folk, assistant director of Publication Services, the Copy Services packs look far better than those produced by competing agencies on “The Ave.”

“We’re trying to get the word out to faculty,” Folk said. She said the new process is “easier, and may not take as long as they think.” Indeed, on the Publications Services Web page devoted to the course packs (easily seen at http://www.washington.edu/admin/pubserv/), the language is confident of success: “Got a day, got a week? We can meet your deadlines with quick turnaround and speedy delivery.”

The process has been under way for the last year, as one department after another migrated to the new system. “We started out with maybe 50 course packs, and now we do hundreds and hundreds of titles every quarter.”

All of Copy Services’ course packs are now sold through the bookstore. But still, that only amounts to between 60 and 65 percent of all UW course packs sold that way — a number Folk would like to see rise.

Folk said the change saves time and money for the UW by getting it out of the business of selling course packs retail. Of the Book Store, she said, “They are really good at doing retail, while we are really good at doing production.”

She said, too, that the vast majority of copyright permissions are now handled by the software program, by Alto Imaging Systems, through which permissions can often be secured, logged and tracked quickly and easily. This often eliminates the need for subsequent requests when an article is reused in a later term.

The issue of course packs and copyright permission goes way back, at the UW and throughout academe. A successful lawsuit by a publisher against Kinko’s copy center in the early 1990s drew new attention to the matter of securing royalties and permission for the use of articles in “anthology” packs, sampling writing from several sources.

The case, and the climate of growing concern over copyright permissions, also prompted letters to the faculty in 1993 and 1995 from then-Acting Provost David Thorud. In 1995, Thorud noted that the Association of American Publishers had put several local copy centers on notice for potential copyright violations. “Faculty members who choose to use non-University copying systems, and fail to ensure that copyright clearances are secured, do so at their own risk,” he wrote. “Faculty members could be held individually liable by publishers for use of external publishing agents if appropriate copyright clearances are not obtained. In these cases, the University can neither represent nor indemnify faculty members if they are sued by publishers.”

Rob Dodson, who heads textbook sales for the UW Book Store, said strong sales numbers show that the change is working well. Since fall of 2005, he said, sales have skyrocketed. “What we have heard here is that it’s convenient to buy the materials all in one spot, that it’s good for everybody. It brought more kids into the store where they learn more about what the store carries and more about refunds.” He added, “If I had to emphasize one thing, it would be convenience for the students.”

“We are not for profit. We charge what it costs to produce,” Folk said. But the low cost of the UW’s production enables the Book Store to mark up a bit for its own profit, “and the students come out about the same.”