Book Web site links campus

John Bloor

Buying books is a frustrating part of every new semester for most students. It usually means crowded aisles and long lines in the University bookstore, plus a heavy hit to the wallet.

But one student has designed an alternative way to buy and sell books – an online Web site designed specifically for University students. is the brainchild of sophomore Scott Sawyer. The online service allows students to avoid the bookstore completely by linking up directly to other students on the same campus.

“The idea came to me last spring,” Sawyer, a computer engineering major, said. “I was irritated that the book store offered so little to buy back the books.”

The idea is simple. Students list their books on the site for a small fee. Other students then search the database by title, author, ISBN, or class at no charge. If they find a book they need, they can buy the book directly from the seller. The process effectively cuts the middle man from the process.

In theory, it’s a win-win situation for students. The seller sets reasonable prices for the books and the buyer saves money by avoiding markups. Since the students are on the same campus, they do not have to pay delivery charges or wait for their books in the mail.

Not surprisingly, the December Web site launch and advertising campaign coincided with the end-of-semester book buyback period – a period during which the bookstore is often criticized by students

“You get absolutely nothing at buyback and yet they sell the used books at a much higher price,” junior Matthew Voorhees said. “I brought in three $100 textbooks and they offered me $40 total for all three. Now they’re selling them for $75 a piece. They’re making a profit at the expense of the students.”

However, most low buyback prices are not the doing of the book store, according to Frank Henninger, the director of the University book store.

“If the faculty are going to use a certain book next semester, we offer about 50% of the new price of that book and sell it at about 75%,” Henninger said. “Most of the low buyback prices are due to the fact that those books aren’t going to be used again, in which case an independent company offers to buy them at a rate that corresponds with national demand.”

According to Henninger, is not the first attempt by students to create an alternative method of buying and selling books.

“There have been at least three other students who have tried to do this in past years,” Henninger said. “Usually they all disappear when the student graduates.”

The book store offers several advantages over Sawyer’s web site, including a more expansive selection and the ability to return books if a course is dropped.

Nevertheless, is gaining popularity. Saywer reported that about 800 unique visitors have visited the website since it was launched. Over the past few days, the number of registered users and posted books has increased substantially.

Junior Alison Hontanosas recently accessed the site to sell her books after a frustrating attempt with E-Bay.

“The website’s easy to use and there’s potential for me to make a lot of money,” she said.

However, Hontanosas also noted that there is a limited number of books. “None of the books I needed were there, which means it needs to be publicized more,” she said.

Success at the University might lead to Sawyer launching similar web site for other colleges.

“Next, we plan to expand to Oklahoma University,” Sawyer said. “And I’ve already talked to more students who are interested in starting it at their schools.