Students build online textbook exchange

U-Swap lets buyers compare prices from other students and retailers.

Kaitlyn Walek

University of Minnesota students now have another option for buying and selling used textbooks: U-Swap.org — a website launched by three college students, two from the University.

The website competes with more traditional ways of reselling textbooks, but other bookstores said they’re not concerned.

“At this point, it’s a pretty small player,” said Troy Gerkey, owner of the Go4Books store in Stadium Village. He said websites like Amazon.com operate on a larger scale and haven’t hurt his business.

Martha Hoppe, interim director of the University Bookstores, said she’s heard of the website and encourages people to purchase books wherever they would like.

“I think students have always exchanged books; this just makes it easier,” Hoppe said. “I don’t think this is a new phenomenon.”

University students Nathan Shrader and David Ottman teamed up with John Bruer, a student at St. Olaf College, to create the website as a simple and direct way for students to trade textbooks.

They received help creating the technical side of the website from Northwestern University graduate Ethan Romba, who created a similar website that’s being used at Northwestern.

U-Swap uses the University of Minnesota Bookstores’ course information and allows students to compare prices of Amazon, the Bookstores and students selling their old books. To use the site, students must sign in with a University email address.

“You can search by class ID and class number, ISBN numbers for books and class title,” said Shrader, the website’s president.

By using course information from the Bookstores, students can be sure they’re getting the correct book for their class.

U-Swap is already up and running, but Shrader said he hopes to officially launch the website at the end of this semester or the beginning of next semester with marketing and partnerships.

Minnesota Student Association President Mike Schmit said MSA will be working with Shrader to launch the website and make students aware of it.

College affordability is one of MSA’s top priorities. Schmit said members are looking for solutions, like Shrader’s website, that can be implemented immediately.

“I’m really excited that a lot of students might use it — I mean, that’s the hope,” Shrader said.

“It’s by students, for students.”

Students have mixed opinions about the website.

University student Gina Peterson voiced concerns about returning books online.

Part of the reason she buys books at the Bookstores, she said, is so she can return them easily. With the website, though, returns could be more difficult.

But University student Sadie Strassman said she was frustrated with the Bookstores.

“I went to try and sell my textbooks, and [the Bookstores said], ‘Oh, we’re not taking this anymore. We’re not taking this one either.’ And I was like, ‘I bought them last semester; I know the class is still going on,’” she said.

Strassman and fellow University students Karissa Olson and Molly Rider all said they thought the website was a good idea and something they’d be interested in.

Some students have already used the website.

“The site was extremely efficient. I searched my course number, found the lowest price and emailed [the seller],” said freshman Olivia Caringi, who is in the same business fraternity as Shrader — Delta Sigma Pi.

She said she bought a textbook for $80 from the website, while the Bookstores charged more than $200.

“I will be sure to sell books on there in the future,” she said.