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Website lets students list book prices

Gerald Witherspoon came up with an idea with his roommate, Ramon Pena, in the fall of 2011 to design a website that would decrease the financial burden of buying textbooks from the campus bookstores.

Little did he know that just over a year earlier, Chalmers Brown, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, had already designed a website with the same idea.

Originally, allows students to post information about textbooks they need or want to sell, said Wenbo Zhang, assistant marketing director of RU Selling. Once a student finds the book they need, a confirmation number is sent to the seller and the buyer.

Students then meet up and exchange cash for the textbook along with their confirmation numbers, said Zhang, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. The numbers, once uploaded to the website, provides feedback on how the transaction took place.

“At the end of the day, I feel like … we’re getting ripped off from the bookstores,” Zhang said. “Students spend up to $700 to $900 per year, and that is an absolutely ridiculous amount. [This website] is just our way of helping students at Rutgers.”

To ensure the safety of the students during meet ups, Brown, chief executive officer of RU Selling, said the website encourages and advises students to meet in University safe zones.

“We suggest students use RU safe zones to exchange textbooks at campus centers and during suggested times — during the day or in the afternoon and not late at night,” said Brown.

Witherspoon, chief communications officer of RU Selling, said after he found out about Brown’s, he and his roommate decided to meet up with him to try and work together.

“We decided to change it to to create a Rutgers appeal. We met Chalmers and he needed help, so he brought us on board and we began working on the project, especially over the summer,” said Witherspoon, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

The website launched at the beginning of the fall 2012 semester, and as of now has over 190 users, over 100 textbooks listed for sale on the site, and has had over 13,000 unique visitors, according to Brown. An estimated 30 textbooks have been sold.

Zhang said the site went from having three to 15 active administrative members.

“We are a team of 15 with about 11 interns on board right now,” he said. “We have assignments that each intern fills out such as taking polls or creating surveys, helping with marketing … and [creating] presentations.

Witherspoon said the Rutgers University Student Assembly passed a bill last December to provide support to RU Selling by co-sponsoring events with them.

“We’re trying to alleviate the burden … we’re looking for the University to come on board but it’s a slow and gradual process,” he said.

RU Selling is also looking to expand their services past textbooks, Zhang said. The organization hopes to bring i>Clickers and even laptops into the service.

None of the interns or members of the organization get paid and the service is free, Brown said. The organization is looking to start charging a dollar from the seller and a dollar from the buyer to cover the costs of the site and maintenance.

Zhang said he plans to hold information sessions in the coming months and increase awareness of the organization at Rutgers Day or at job fairs.

Brown said he is currently working with JuiceTank Innovation Lab, a company that invests in startups that have a potential to grow.

“JuiceTank has been very helpful to us because they like the idea and they like the enthusiasm we have,” he said. “They’re going to help us with bringing our technology to the next level by giving us tools to work on our websites so it can be as good as it can be.”

He said the end goal is to have similar sites up and running at different universities in the country.

“It’s a cheap school compared to a lot of other universities, and it’s not everyone’s first choice,” Zhang said. “Why spend thousands on books when you don’t even have money for another college. We want to make the college experience a little easier."

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