Buying College Textbooks Online

By: Damon Dillman
By: Damon Dillman

Buying college textbooks can be an expensive investment. But turning to the Internet can help you save money.

Last week, James Madison University sophomores Ammar Shallal and Jack Kahan launched the Web site Underdogbooks.com for students to buy and sell used textbooks.

"I mean, what we learn in business classes is, the ideas for the best businesses solve pertinent problems," explained Shallal. "And it's become a huge problem, the idea that people dread going to the bookstore."

"People go in the bookstore every semester and spend like five or six hundred dollars, and like, I know I do," added Kahan. "My average is probably about five hundred dollars."

The Web site says it can save time, effort, and money when buying used books.

"People put the books that they need, and the books that they want to sell, and they get matched up in our system, in our database," said Shallal.

On Wednesday the site completed its second sale - a used chemistry text. According to Shallal and Kahan, the book would have cost $75 in the campus bookstore. But by using their Web site, the student who bought the book paid $58.50.

"Our average saving price is like $30 on buying a book," said Kahan.

The website only buys and sells books for James Madison students. But its founders say they hope the website will be used as a model for similar businesses on other college campuses.

"This problem is not specific to JMU. It's not specific to east coast schools," said Shallal. "It's everywhere. It's across the nation."

Campus bookstores have to deal with expenses, such as rental and employee costs, that are included in book prices. Underdogbooks.com and other national textbook sites, such as VarsityBooks.com, don't have to worry about those costs.

And the savings get passed along to whoever buys the books.

"If they're getting the money from their parents or something, asking you for all this money to pay for the books, you know, they're not going to use them that much sometimes," said Kahan. "And you want to get as much back for those as you can.

"Who wants to waste money?"


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