While the lines for textbooks at bookstores near campus seem to have died down a month into the fall semester, the digital market continues to boom.
A survey from the National Retail Federation found that 41 percent of college students plan on using a smartphone to research products and compare prices and 46 percent will use a tablet to shop.
The survey, which estimates each college student or college family plans to spend $899 on back-to-school shopping this year, also estimates about one third of purchases for back-to-school shopping will be completed on mobile devices.
According to USF students Daniel Mall and Rhondel Whyte, more than 2,200 students have already downloaded their Borrow’d app, a program that launched at the end of spring and allows students to buy, rent or sell textbooks to each other at their own prices.
Whyte, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, and Mall, a recent alumnus with a degree in interdisciplinary social sciences, worked together in the spring to design and market the new app. When The Oracle first interviewed the duo in May, they said the app had maybe 500 users with about 50 books traded.
Now, Mall said the app has more than quadrupled since the start of the fall semester, with upward of 300 textbooks available.
“Every day, this number increases,” he said. “… The rate at which students listed books is significantly higher this semester than over the summer.”
Though Mall said business on the app was expected to decrease over the summer as students traveled abroad and took a break from classes, the app’s expansion to the Android market in August brought in more users than he initially hoped.
Borrow’d operates when a student scans a textbook’s barcode and uploads its information on the app’s database, posting a picture of the book and listing an price for sellers or lenders.
The physical exchange occurs when a student agrees on a price, and monetary transactions are finalized only after both parties indicate a completed exchange.
As an example, Whyte explained a typical exchange would be when a student pays $200 for a textbook at the USF Bookstore, but is then offered less than a 10th of that amount when he or she tries to sell it back at the end of the semester. Whyte said students would use the app to rent out a textbook either daily, weekly or monthly since a textbook isn’t always needed every day of the semester. Students would then continue renting out the book when it is needed, going for prices much lower than many bookstores.
In many cases, Whyte said he has seen most texts sell anywhere from $25 to $75, or rented at similar prices.
Mall said this mainly helps students who refuse to sell back textbooks to the bookstore at unfair prices, and allows them to recoup the money after several semester of renting.
“A student could, in theory, make back what they paid for their book,” he said. “… The idea of selling back your books to the bookstore will soon be obsolete. Students can make back more than what their book is worth through renting them out, all while doing so, making textbooks more affordable for other students.”
According to a 2014 study from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, the price of college textbooks over the course of the last decade has increased 82 percent. In the same study, it was found that 65 percent of students have decided to not buy a book at some point in their university career.
Though Mall declined to provide the financials behind the app, he said the app is at the mercy of the textbook market that spikes only at the beginning and ends of the semester.
While traffic on the app will likely plateau until December, Mall said Borrow’d is always looking for ways to improve business on the app and provide new features.