By Adam Gonshor
Last year, Mike Levine left a used bookstore near Ryerson in disgust when he was offered $15 for an accounting textbook that had cost him $80 a few months earlier.
Instead of accepting this common situation, he decided to be proactive. The third-year ITM student spent part of his summer developing Booksforschool.ca, a website where Canadian university students can swap their used books.
“It was just a matter of sitting down, planning out what I wanted the service to feature, and finding the time,” said Levine, who created the site with a friend from York University.
AtBooksforschool.ca, students get 100 per cent of the profits from all sales and a free web page that automatically lists all their registered books.
Ryerson’s Used Book Room, in comparison, takes 25 per cent commission. The website allows students to set their own prices, while The Used Book Room sets a maximum amount a book can retail for.
“Hanging up posters around school with all your books is a thing of the past,” Levine said. “Now all you need to do is give people your new bookstore’s web address.”
But the website could be inconvenient for some students. Since the service is available country-wide, Ryerson students could have week-long waits for books they purchase from students on the east or west coasts. That’s a longer wait than the lineup to get into the Used Book Room. Security is also an issue. There’s no way of knowing if the seller is going to cheat the buyer, who has to send the money first.
“We have a rating system in place where students can leave feedback on both buyers and sellers, letting others know about their experiences,” Levine said. “And we have various fraud screening mechanisms in place during registration to make sure people are who they say they are.”
The longevity of the site will rely on how many people decide to use it. Since its launch in late August, more than 100 users have listed more than 200 textbooks on the website.