Of all the options college students have when purchasing textbooks, few allow them to trade one book for another.
Generally, students simply sell their books back to stores at a greatly reduced rate. But what if students could trade textbooks they’ve just completed for ones they’ll need for the next semester?
That’s the idea behind a One Spark pitch by three Jacksonville natives. Emmanuel Matias, Bradley Tomlin and G.C. Wieser are looking to enter the $7 billion textbook industry with an online textbook matching system called Textbook Boomerang, which they hope will revolutionize the way college students obtain textbooks for class.
The Textbook Boomerang trio will attend this year’s One Spark festival in downtown Jacksonville and are asking for $350,000 in funding to start their online database matching system for college students.
Matias handles the analytics and business side of Textbook Boomerang. He is an alumnus of the University of North Florida and was at the forefront of the idea of trading books on a large scale.
“The idea stems from college, actually,” Matias said. “I would ask myself, ‘Why isn’t there a way to trade textbooks?’”
Matias would trade with friends or classmates, but during his time in college, there wasn’t a way to trade on a larger scale.
“I didn’t have the resources to execute something like this,” said Matias on the conception of Textbook Boomerang, “but it always stayed in the back of my head.”
Tomlin has a marketing and public relations background. He said the reason this idea is going to be popular is that it has a great team, with each member specializing in different aspects of running a startup.
“There really isn’t anybody else in the marketplace that’s doing this,” Tomlin said. He referred to Amazon and eBay as two of the influencers in the textbook world, along with campus bookstores.
Wieser is a software engineer, an alumnus of the University of North Florida, and the third piece of this startup trio. Wieser said there are plenty of marketplaces to buy and sell books, such as eBay and craigslist, but no place to trade books.
Tasked with creating a smart algorithm, Wieser’s software has the ability to match students from different colleges and universities in different states via the books they own and the ones they need.
With Wieser’s software, Textbook Boomerang will allow students to create a profile that includes the books the user owns and the books for which the user is looking. Once two users “match” and agree to trade the books, they will confirm and print a shipping label.
The books go through no third party and users will print off the other student’s address. Due to the fact that there’s no third-party users, a student who sends a textbook to someone else could never receive one.
One way the founders of Textbook Boomerang hope to avoid that is to use a rating system like Amazon and Ebay. Both companies allow users to rate their transactions with others. Tomlin said this will allow students to know who is and is not a good person with whom to trade.
Textbook Boomerang founders hope to save every student an average of $50 per book in a given semester through using the system to trade books. The average student pays $370 on textbooks a semester, according to the National Association of College Stores, and 47 percent of students purchase books from their campus bookstore.
The first version of Textbook Boomerang will be an online computer site, working on phones through a web browser, and there are plans down the road for an application.
Textbook Boomerang is asking for $350,000 to roll out business plans. According to Tomlin, advertising will start with Spotify and Pandora sound bites and with student ambassadors on college campuses locally and eventually throughout the country.
The Textbook Boomerang trio highly anticipates One Spark and said they plan to go all out during the festival, including souvenir giveaways and live entertainment.
Tomlin said he hopes Textbook Boomerang will hit Jacksonville universities first, followed by other cities. Tomlin plans to enter universities in every state by 2017, with the beta version of the site starting summer 2015, and a full roll out of Textbook Boomerang in the fall.
“One Spark will help our vision come to fruition,” Tomlin said.
By: Ean Gomez, Ignite Media’s Tumblr Assistant Managing Editor