An online store has sprouted that will offer University of Wisconsin students a place to buy textbooks from other students. The site, madbook.com, which became fully operational Monday afternoon, already has 70 books posted for sale by their owners.
The website’s creator and proprietor, Michael Comstock, started writing code for the site after he visited his roommate’s house over last summer. While he read a magazine, the idea for the site popped into his head.
Comstock said book shopping at the normal stores around Library Mall and State Street can get expensive, even if one buys used books.
Comstock offered the following example in an e-mail: “You buy a book at the bookstore for $85. You use it one semester, and now you sell it back to the bookstore for $40. The bookstore now sells the book to another student for $75. So they make $75-$40 = $35 when they sell a book that you sold them.”
He explained that on his website, he, as the owner of the store, receives no profit. On madbook.com, the seller can immediately post a book at a cost of his or her choosing and casual shoppers can browse the selection online. When a customer buys a book, the website exchanges contact information of the two parties through e-mail. Comstock or the website do not take part in any of the actual exchange of money or texts.
Comstock currently buys the space online by himself, a cost he might have to pass on to the consumer with a nominal charge.
“In the future, I might have to charge a dollar or something,” Comstock said, adding it would be beneficial to get businesses to advertise and to expand the site to include other schools.
Comstock believes the site will cause competition with the brick-and-mortar bookstores.
“This will be cheaper. It cuts out the middleman,” Comstock said.
Comstock is also ready for a little more time, now that he has the website up and running.
“Everything is fully automated,” Comstock said. He said he lost sleep and neglected some schoolwork to program the website over past months. “I don’t really see a major time commitment (after this).”
This website was born to help save college kids money, and students, with the assistance of vice chancellor of student affairs Paul Barrows, are striving to find any bridge to cheaper books. One possible solution would be a rental system run by UW.
David Bohnhoff, an alternate senator on the UW Faculty Senate, said a rental system is definitely something worth exploring. Bohnhoff added that his alma mater, UW-Platteville, offered a rental system that cut down on his book costs. Anita Thompson, a senator for the faculty, confirmed the Faculty Senate has not heard any reports on a book-rental system.
The Faculty Senate would be a logical forum for book-rental discussion, where concerns involving keeping texts updated for courses, adding additional readers because of outdated texts, or royalty issues for textbooks written by UW professors could be aired.
As for Comstock’s website, he was “pretty happy” with his first day of business and experienced his first sale, which was, in his words, “pretty exciting.”