BooksOnCampus.com enables student-to-student textbook sales

By
Thursday, January 25, 2007

Shopping period brings more than searching for the right classes – it also means finding textbooks at affordable prices. BooksOnCampus.com, a new online service that has partnered with Facebook.com, aims to make that task easier for students this semester by allowing them to buy and sell textbooks amongst themselves.

Two Brandeis University graduates, Mark Kantor and Tim Suzman, as well as Suzman’s brother Ted, a student at Washington University in St. Louis, began the service in 2003. The idea came to them after Tim Suzman paid $100 for a used calculus book from the Brandeis bookstore. After he discovered that the bookstore was willing to buy a used copy from another student for only $15, he returned the original copy and purchased the book from a classmate for only $50, Kantor wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

The trio first offered the service at Brandeis and, according to Kantor, it “caught on really well.” Soon, they said, half the students at Brandeis – about 1,500 students – were using the site. The Brandeis bookstore was annoyed at first, Kantor wrote, but “it’s our job to inform students that their intuitions are right – the bookstore rips them off on used textbooks.”

Now students at more than 700 colleges and universities use BooksOnCampus.com, Kantor wrote.

With the BooksOnCampus.com service, a student at Brown interested in selling a textbook could post an asking price on the site and another Brown student looking for the same book could express interest. The students then negotiate a price and arrange to meet to exchange the book for cash.

A “like new” copy of “Principle of Economics,” the textbook for EC 11: “Principles of Economics,” is available for $73.50 on BooksOnCampus.com, while at the Brown Bookstore, a used copy – currently unavailable – costs $132. But availability could be a problem: no Brown students are currently selling the book on the site, though interested EC 11 students could purchase the book from someone at another college and have it shipped.

For books not available from other students, BooksOnCampus.com links to Amazon.com. For instance, “The End of the Affair” by Graham Greene, a book used in EL 80: “Writing War,” costs $10 new from Amazon.com and $10.50 used from the Brown Bookstore.

Despite competition from Internet-based services like BooksOnCampus.com, the Brown Bookstore is “surviving pretty well,” wrote Edward Weiss, manager of the textbook department of the Brown Bookstore in an e-mail to The Herald.

As for BooksOnCampus.com, its founders have big plans for expansion to new campuses, assisted by Facebook, which allows BooksOnCampus.com to use Facebook accounts as an alternative to creating separate accounts specifically for the site. Kantor said the partnership drives visitors to both sites.