Unbounded idiocy

| | Comments (6)

One of the things we like to do in the graduate program here, especially considering how young we are as a program, is to buy program copies of our alumni's dissertations. This would be a substantial project at a program with the history of a Purdue or Texas or Ohio State, but it's not been so bad here. With a minimal budget, though, and at $63 a pop, we have to be strategic. It's not an automatic thing because we can't always afford it.

With a little money left over this year, and having fallen a bit behind in the stocking of our dissertation shelf, last week I placed an order for 6, 4 fairly recent ones and a couple from the days when we had occasional comprhetters earning degrees through English. So I head over to UMI, which I've used before for this very purpose, and like last time, I struggle a bit with their site, which seems to be designed specifically to prevent people from placing orders.

Finally, I punch through, and place the order. Hooray. But not, apparently, processing the following bit of information, sandwiched between the "secure server" and "delivery whenever we get to you" lines:

Dissertations ordered online are available in unbound shrink-wrapped format only.

Oh. Hooray. We got a box today that was full of reams of unbound paper, just the thing for our shelves. It was my screwup, I know, and it pisses me off that it cost us $250, but then I thought to myself: I can rage at myself anytime. Really: What. The. Hell? Why can I send a piece of paper to them to order bound copies, but they can't handle an order placed over the internet? Honestly, would it cost them that freakin much to offer 2 options instead of 1? And what's with defaulting to unbound reams of paper? And charging a price for it that makes Kinko's look like the bargain bin?

From their crappy website to their prehistoric e-commerce to their unchallenged monopoly, I'd rather save up my rage and extend it, wrapped and ribboned, to our friends at UMI, purveyors of the single-worst commercial experience I may have ever experienced. Thanks, UMI, for all your damn help.

Actually, you know, I'm thinking about how much more effective, both in terms of cost and personal satisfaction, it would be to keep ms. copies of our dissertations, and to go with a POD company like Booksurge. Instead of paying $63 dollars per dissertation through them, if we had .pdfs of our dissertations, a 300 page hardcover book would cost us less than $30, and it'd probably be a better product than we get from UMI anyway.


Update: I've never been happier to eat crow. MB called ProQuest today, and I don't know what she told them, but they've offered to send us bound copies, and rather than making us pay for the full price ($63 per), they're only charging us the difference between the bound and unbound price (about $22 per). The site is still far more of a pain to use than it should be, but I can't complain now about the overall service or their willingness to bail me out of my mistake.


Wow. You guys are nicer to your grad students’s pocketbooks than all of my departments. They’ve all required that graduating students submit a bound copy of the thesis/diss to the departmental collection before the exit paperwork is processed.

WTF? No one has mentioned this to me at all, and I'm defending and starting a job in a matter of weeks. It cost me over $300 to print and comb-bind my dissertation and send it to my committee members. I have to do it again before the defense, too (defense copy).

$300 for printing and comb-binding???!!! I had no idea, but now I'm so glad we invested that $50 in our own personal comb-binder years ago.

Clancy, you should think about going with CafePress or something like that. You can ring-bind a 300 page doc for less than $20, and technically, I suppose, you could "order" the copies and have them send them directly to your readers. It'd be a lot less than $300, for sure.

Krista, I've thought about that option, but I've got real issues with creating artificial hurdles like that, especially when we have students completing degrees from afar.

The one idea I hope to implement eventually is to cut a check to the students themselves when they order their own copies, so that we can take advantage of the author discount. But otherwise, I think it's only fair that we not make it harder for students to finish...

I was unclear. The $300+ figure comes from:

1. Printing out over half of the dissertation at Kinko's because Jonathan's printer ran out of toner, and it costs 49 CENTS A PAGE to use their printers (highway robbery!), plus 20 cents a minute that you use their computers

2. Making copies of the dissertation on their copiers. I have a 238-page dissertation and a 5-person committee, so that was a good bit

3. The comb binding

4. Sending them all express mail (again, to 5 people). I suppose I could have sent them priority, but I didn't want to take any chances; I have a tight timeline.

And, as I said, I have to do it again before my defense. I'll look into the CafePress option, but they have to have a RUSH delivery option, preferably overnight. I'll need to give myself the maximum amount of time to do revisions.

Leave a comment



Powered by Movable Type 4.1

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by cgbrooke published on July 25, 2006 12:22 AM.

A Scanner Darkly was the previous entry in this blog.

The Worldwide Leader is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.