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Putting His Foot Down

by Staff

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“The prices of textbooks are just out of control. New books areoutrageous, and used books are still too high.”

— Kurtis Waddell, Web site creator

College students have become all too familiar with the routine.

It’s the end of the semester and time to cash in on that stack oftextbooks. However, the guy at the opposite side of the counter saysa $90 book is now worth only a few bucks.

Situations like these finally lit a fire under Kurtis Waddell, aMesa College student majoring in communication, who came up with asolution to the problem of textbook price-gouging.

Waddell’s answer is www.sdcollegebooks.com,a Web site that allows students to post their books online.

“The prices of textbooks are just out of control,” Waddell said.”New books are outrageous, and used books are still too high.”

Students can gain access to the site by signing on and receiving aprivate password. Those who want to sell their used texts post basicinformation on the book — such as the author’s name, ISBN number,title, subject, class course, asking price vs. retail price and eventhe condition of the book. Membership is free.

The program is designed to automatically place the subject, authoror ISBN number into separate categories for buyers who are looking toaccess the specific books they need. Contact information, primarilye-mail, of the seller is easily accessible for any buyer to arrange atime and place for an exchange.

The site is aimed specifically toward students attending San DiegoState and Mesa college, which is all Waddell’s resources cancurrently handle. Also, the site — although its specialty isexchanging books — recently started offering students a classifiedsection, which boasts an area for locating wanted roommates orplacing for-rent ads.

Waddell manages the Web site by himself, and puts much of his owntime and energy into the project.

“I’m doing this on behalf of other students who are just like me,who’ve experienced the same kinds of problems I have withoverpricing, who are in need of a service like this,” Waddell said.”Yeah, it’s a lot of work, and there’s a lot to it. But I figured I’djust dive in head-first and see where it takes me.”

The service has enlisted about 600 members since it was introducedlast year — a number Waddell said hopes will continue to increase.For him, this semester will be an important test to see how studentstake to the Web site’s services, he said.

“What it will ultimately come down to is if students start gettinggood market value for the books they are buying and selling,” hesaid. “I’m hopeful, from there, word of mouth will really starttaking effect.”

So, what is the competition saying?

KB bookstores owner, Ken Appel, conceded Waddell’s site allowsstudents to explore more options when shopping for textbooks –always a good thing for students.

“I think if more options is something he can offer, then great,”Appel said.

The biggest reasons Appel cites for inflated book prices are thethree major publishers — McGraw Hill, Pearson’s Publishing andThompson’s Publishing — which have bought out nearly two dozenpublishing companies, and have set book prices higher simply becausethey know they can get away with it.

He also blames the current system of buying and selling backtexts. Some professors are non-committal to one text over a period ofa few years. Also, certain professors who post late orders for textsafter buyback, in turn, also short-change students. He also said therising numbers of classes being offered every other semester helps tocreate a fallout of unused texts.

R.D. Williams, director of communications and SDSU relations, saidthe idea of selling off textbooks to other students in differentvenues is nothing new.

“We consistently watch and evaluate the impact of new technologieson our business,” he said.

“In our research, we have seen that students are often skepticalabout buying used textbooks online. A single title can have manyeditions, and instructors expect students to have the currentedition. Students also expect to easily return a text if they needto.”

Even so, Waddell said he predicts a bright future for the service.

“I think it will take hold and be successful, but even if itdoesn’t, I will have had a great learning experience doing this,” hesaid. “There is already a good number of members, and it’s going inthe right direction.

“Now I want to see how far it will go.”

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