Concordia graduate launches dedicated textbook marketplace

Photo by Rodrigo Galindez on Flickr already has nearly 2,000 listings

Students looking online for affordable course material this semester now have a new, dedicated option alongside Facebook groups and craigslist boards to help them find the textbooks they need at low prices.

SwapMyBooks is a new website focused on connecting students who want to buy and sell specific school books. Creator Gabrielle Jacques said she worked together with website designer, Rob Lebrocq, to make it more user-friendly after she heard that students use several platforms to sell their books. She even heard of students posting on four different Facebook pages to find a buyer for a single item. With this, she told herself: “If everyone would use one website, everyone would find each other.”

Students can also find books more easily on SwapMyBooks than on other websites. “If you want to find a book [on other websites], you have to type it exactly as the person who posted it did,” said Jacques. To avoid this problem, her website consults a database. Users can search by author, title, and ISBN to arrive at the same page where all the listings for the same book are grouped together.

If someone searches for a book that hasn’t been posted yet, the book’s Amazon listing is offered instead, though absent from the site are listings for brick-and-mortar bookstores, such as the Concordia Bookstore.

Jacques came up with the idea during her time at the John Molson School of Business, while Lebrocq contributed the tech know-how. Jacques created the site after she became frustrated with the book buyback program offered through the Concordia Bookstore. “My problem was the fact that not only do they buy [a book] back for a super-low price, but they also make a profit after,” Jacques said. “To me, it doesn’t sound fair at all.”

According to Concordia’s director of media relations, Chris Mota, the university’s bookstore (as a member of a campus retailer’s association) uses a standard buyback pricing scheme where a student could receive up to 50 per cent of the original price of a textbook or as little as five per cent, depending on what books are needed and where they’d go after the bookstore buys them.

“Students have a lot of options as to where they can buy their books,” Mota said. Whether students purchase books online or at a bookstore, she said, “they just have to realize that they should purchase the book that is the appropriate one for that particular course.”

Specifically, Mota advised students to use caution when purchasing previous editions of textbooks, as she said she believes older editions won’t meet the needs of a course.

“Even though a student may believe there is not much of a difference from edition to edition, if a professor thinks there is, they need to keep that in mind,” Mota said.

That may not stop students from trying to buy and sell current and older editions of textbooks on SwapMyBooks; about 1,800 books have been posted so far by some 1,300 users since the beta version of the website launched in August.

It certainly won’t discourage Jacques from continuing to work on the website. Her future plans include creating a barcode scanning function and a complementary app feature, for which she’s currently searching for outside investment, though she hopes to launch it within the next year. She is also considering adding relevant local advertisements to the website; the site’s current revenue comes from the Amazon affiliates program. Jacques, though, sees the website as a service for students. “I’m really not doing this for profits,” she said. For now, she’d be happy if traffic paid for the site’s hosting costs.

She hopes that students will use the feedback form on the website to help her streamline the website and make it more functional and easier to use. “It’s to help students,” she said, “so I don’t see why students wouldn’t want to help me make it a better platform for them.”

To check out the site, visit

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