Online student venture catalogs users’ libraries

By Kate Shepherd

A member of the multitasking generation, third-year economics major Guy Demeter has no difficulty balancing schoolwork and developing and launching online software. Demeter stumbled across programming in his sixth-grade algebra class, when he started programming his calculator out of boredom. He then developed a serious interest in application programming during his second year of high school, when he began making applications himself.

In December 2006, Demeter launched, a website that uses online software to help customers catalog and manage their libraries through online book lists.

Demeter says that while the site is marginally profitable, the hands-on learning experience he has gotten from running BookBump is more valuable than the profits.

“I have learned valuable lessons in leadership, entrepreneurship, and project development that I hope will benefit me in future endeavors and eventually later in whatever career path I choose to take,” he said in an e-mail interview.

BookBump allows registered users to organize their book collections and access related special features by searching for books they own in the database and adding them to a list with an interface similar to an iTunes library. Once the user adds a book, he can keep track of personal information—such as whether he has read the book—and access features such as author quotations, bibliographic formats, similar books, reviews, and a price checker.

Running BookBump has allowed Demeter to channel his interests in computer programming, entrepreneurship, and venture capitalism into a single project. The concept started out with another program he developed called GlobalBooks, he said. As his interest and entrepreneurial skill grew, GlobalBooks evolved into BookBump.

The history of BookBump dates back to the summer before Demeter’s fourth year of high school, when he was looking for a simpler way to make bibliographies. He used his computer programming experience to discover methods of crawling through websites to extract data he needed.

“A couple months after making the initial applications, I started reading articles about software that organized libraries and thought to myself, ‘Why should people pay $40 for something I can give away for free?’,” he said. “So from that grew GlobalBooks.”

In designing GlobalBooks, Demeter set his application apart from competing programs by adding unique features to enhance the user’s library. Users have access to author quotations, electronic books, and bibliographies.

His interest in technology paid off the summer after his first year when he was offered an internship at a venture capital firm that was impressed by his tech knowledge. The job sparked his interest in entrepreneurship and influenced his programming venture.

One of Demeter’s responsibilities at the firm was researching developing technologies. He was inspired by a pitch from a company that built rich Internet applications—websites built to look and function like normal desktop applications.

“BookBump has not really evolved since its inception,” he said. “Many details were planned before active development, so we had a clear vision of how the application would look and feel and how it would interact with the server.”

Demeter still updates the website and responds to user feedback while at school and on breaks at home. He plans on adding more features such as e-book integration, an online storefront to sell books, tagging, and discussion forums.

“My favorite feature is currently unavailable, to the public at least,” he added. “We are working on integrating the BookBump experience into ‘widgets,’ which enable users to put in blogs or websites certain booklists. Otherwise, I enjoy both the ‘Personal Book Info’ and the bibliographies.”

He said he knows of a few students who use BookBump, but that he is not actively marketing to students because of the limited book collections most students have.

“Most of our users are out of college and usually have hundreds of books that they catalog, so we try to make our product appeal to that rich demographic,” he said.

BookBump has received positive reviews from technology weblogs such as “LifeHacker” and “Mashable”.

“As for the future, I see BookBump as a system for anyone who has an interest in books, be it simple organization or the need to socialize around books,” he said.