Today at the Annex Lawn, students can directly buy and sell books with other students from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. as part of an innovative Textbook Marketplace hosted by UCSB Associated Students Office of the President and the Academic Affairs Board.
At the marketplace, students are encouraged to physically bring textbooks or put their contact information and list of owned books on Excel spreadsheets organized by the Academic Affairs Board. Students can then use these lists to find contact information for books they need.
A.S. President Sophia Armen said the student-run textbook marketplace is a kickoff for what the A.S. Office of the President hopes will eventually become an institutionalized series of regular student-run buy-back events at the beginning of each quarter.
“It’s going to be a process, but still, it’s something we’re going to start now,” Armen said. “Buying books is expensive, and we have no control over return for books. There’s pressure with costs everywhere, so this way students can make profits instead of having to go through a middleman or to the university.”
According to Armen, the Office of the President and Academic Affairs Board are also engineering a student-run textbook website structured similarly to the textbook advertising hosted on many Facebook group pages.
“We’re tying to make a mechanism that is like Facebook, but student-run,” Armen said.
UCen Bookstore employee and third-year biopsychology major Debbie Gee said the marketplace threatens to redirect students and revenue away from the campus’s main textbook retailer.
“It might detract from the amount of traffic in the UCen,” Gee said. “When people buy textbooks they also buy other things, like pens, pencils and notebooks. So if they buy from somewhere else, sales in general could potentially go down, too.”
According to Armen, the book buy-back will allow students to bypass bookstores and exchange reading material in a much more efficient manner.
“The problem is, when we consistently go to the university or small companies, books can get expensive because you don’t have other options,” Armen said. “This came out of student organization. We’re creating innovative ideas when the university is putting a burden on our backs.”
Second-year economics major Elizabeth Dang said the traditional process of buying and reselling schoolbooks is time-consuming and expensive.
“When I sought out the buying back process, I would find that buyback prices would be for only 20 percent of the book, which is practically nothing,” Dang said. “And textbook costs are ridiculous — especially since we only use it nine weeks, and in most of my classes we only read two chapters out of like 500 pages.”
While the bookstore does offer the option to rent books for a cheaper price, Gee said a successful student-run textbook marketplace could end up being a worthy competitor to the university.
“I’m not sure how the prices at this thing will compare to bookstore prices, but lots of students are struggling with finances, and this could detract from sales if it ends up being cheap, efficient and well-run,” Gee said.
According to Armen, Associated Students Office of the President and Academic Affairs Board hope the textbook marketplace fuels widespread questioning and analysis regarding the causes of high textbook prices and promotes further student organization to address shared financial issues.
“That’s why we’re here: inspiring students, making [them a] part of the solution on campus and showing the impact of having things student-run,” Armen said. “We are a community sharing resources.”
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of January 9th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.