Bridging the student sales gap

Students looking for a different way to sell their textbooks may be in luck.

Two USF entrepreneurs created a Web site for selling textbooks, furniture and other items. What makes their site different from others: Sellers don’t have to pay fees or shipping costs.

Alumnus Mark Vila and student Jorge Marrero got the idea to start University Reach about nine months ago when they said they noticed that students weren’t getting a good deal at bookstores and other online exchanges.

“The whole point of it is to eliminate third parties,” Vila said.

Vila said University Reach is essentially a bulletin board, similar to those found on campus. Sellers list their items under the appropriate category and wait to hear back from buyers.

So far the Web site,, is open to college students, including those at community colleges, in Gainesville, Tallahassee and Tampa. A valid student e-mail account is required to sign up.

Vila said the problem with college bookstores is that they often buy books back from students for a low price, only to resell them at a higher price.

Online exchanges take commission from any item sold and may not always compensate a seller for the full shipping cost. There’s also a small fee that sellers have to pay to list an item.

According to, an item listed for $25 requires a $1.20 listing fee. If the item sells, takes about 5 percent of the final sale price. Items sold for more than $25 have higher fees.

Vila said Web sites such as – which require payment before the textbook is shipped – can leave customers in the dark about what they’re getting.

“You really don’t know the condition of what you’re ordering until you get it,” he said.

University Reach may eliminate the risk of being misled during a purchase by requiring sellers to meet with buyers in person, Vila said. Sellers also benefit by receiving cash instead of waiting for credit cards to be approved, he said.

Vila and Marrero decided to include furniture on the Web site when they realized how hard it is to effectively let people know when items like couches and tables are for sale.

“Realistically, the only way students get the word out is through a couple of friends or to those random people that check the cork boards in all the different buildings,” Vila said.

But Vila warns students to take precaution when going to pick up furniture at a stranger’s house by bringing a friend or two and going during the daytime.

Although the Web site has been running for a few weeks, Vila said it will take time for students to catch on and for it to become a success.

“If everybody at USF got on this site, imagine the amount of savings and ease there would be in using it,” he said.

University Reach also lists roommate subleases, tutors, electronics and other free classifieds.