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Student-Run Website Takes On Bookstore Monopoly

Student-Run Website Takes On Bookstore Monopoly

Textbooks. Purchased for an average of $500 per semester, they are worth only a fraction of the original cost if sold back to the college bookstore. But BooksOnCampus.com, a free student-run website, is fighting bookstore textbook prices by cutting out the bookstore all together. Started in 2003 by Brandeis University undergraduates Mark Kantor and Tim Suzman, along with Suzman's brother Ted, a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, BooksOnCampus.com provides an opportunity for students to save hundreds of dollars each semester by selling their books directly to other students on their college campus.

"By using BooksOnCampus.com, students can sell their books for three or four times what they would get from the bookstore, said Suzman. "At the same time, buyers save an average of 53% on used textbooks. Since buyers and sellers can meet right on campus, there are no shipping fees, and students have a chance to look at the book before the sale is complete. There's no way to lose; it's a perfect system."

Since its launch, the online textbook exchange has saved students at Brandeis (pop. 3,100) upwards of $150,000. "After the initial success at Brandeis, we started getting emails from students across the country asking us to launch the site on their campus," said Kantor. With more than 15 million college students in the U.S., the BooksOnCampus.com founders realized they could have a huge impact. The website is now open to students on all college campuses nationwide. While students, parents, and professors have embraced the website, many college administrators have sided with campus bookstores. "Drexel University's student body president told us that the administration asked him to stop supporting BooksOnCampus.com because the bookstore complained of lost revenue," said Kantor. According to information published by Barnes & Noble, approximately 9% of textbook revenue goes from the bookstore to the college. "BooksOnCampus.com saves students an average of 53%. It seems like the administration should be supporting the service that helps students the most."

To accomplish their goal of spreading BooksOnCampus.com to every college campus, nationwide, the BooksOnCampus.com founders partnered with student leaders from around the country to help them develop and publicize the effort. BooksOnCampus.com has already created significant buzz, with students spreading the word on their own campuses and to friends across the country. Tufts University's Juan Escobar, a senior studying economics and international relations who helps manage the textbook project, explained, "The bookstore's buyback program is pretty deceiving...students are offered very little for their books and often participate because they don't know of other options. This year, BooksOnCampus.com is going to save them. It is a perfect example of how the internet can be used to positively increase communication to save people money and make education more affordable. It's free. It's student-run. And it's incredibly easy because the whole process takes place on a student's campus."

ABOUT BOOKSONCAMPUS.COM: BooksOnCampus.com was founded in December, 2003 by Mark Kantor, Tim Suzman, and Ted Suzman at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA in order to help students save money on their used textbooks. At the end of a term, sellers post books for sale on the site at no charge. At the beginning of the next term, buyers search the website for the books they need. Once a match is made, the students set up a convenient place to meet on campus, and they complete the sale. BooksOnCampus.com is completely free for students.

>http://www.booksoncampus.com

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