Jun 16 2010 - 10:10am

Textbook Exchange

Here I'd like to discuss a textbook exchange project I've been working on which some of you may be interested in helping develop.
Before I explain the project, I first would like to present some facts:
1. There are approximately 17 Million college students in the U.S.
2. On average, each student pays $898/year for textbooks (CALIRG, 2005)
3. Retail bookstores make a 35.1% profit on the sale of used textbooks, on average (NACS study)
4. 1986-2004: Textbooks rose 186%, or 6% a year
5. 1986-2004: Other prices rose 3% (GAO study)
6. 50% of original price - Typical bookstore buyback price of a book originally bought new (Koch report)
7. 10% to 15% of original price - Typical bookstore buyback price of a textbook originally bought used (Koch report)
I've asked myself and others to think about the follow two questions:
Q1: Does the 35.1% profit retail bookstores make on 17 million college students seem best for students?
Q2: Is there a way for students to purchase textbooks for less than $898/year or is $898/year the lowest possible price?
Q3: If textbooks were more affordable and easier to access by all students, would learning be promoted more since the cost of learning would be cheaper?
My Hamilton College (in Clinton, NY) team and I conducted a voluntary survey sent to all Hamilton students. There were 210 responses out of about 1800 students. Significant questions and answers are as follows:
Q1: I would use a free online student-to-student exchange service to save money on used textbook purchases? 96% Yes
Q2: I would use a free online student-to-student exchange service to earn money when selling a used textbook. 95% Yes
Q3: Having the ability to find other students on campus who are selling used copies of the textbooks I need would be beneficial to me. 97% Yes
After realizing that students not only at Hamilton College could benefit from a used textbook exchange service, my team and I decided to create a free and convenient textbook exchange, for students, by students - www.GetMyTextbooks.org (does not work in IE...not sure why). So far, 106 textbooks from Hamilton students are listed. This idea will make textbooks more affordable; therefore, decreasing the cost of learning and making knowledge more accessible to all.
More information about GetMyTextbooks.org can be found in these articles:
http://www.hamilton.edu/spectator/042910/news/bks.html
http://www.hamilton.edu/news/entreprenur-club-aims-to-save-students-money-on-books
Obviously I have very limited resources, as I'm only a rising college junior. However, I think if developed and marketed correctly, GetMyTextbooks.org has a lot of potential and can make a significant difference in lowering college students' expenses.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.