January 28, 2005

College X Changes

College X Changes

Common sense dictates that no one, especially penny-pinching students, is willing to pay more than he has to for purchases. This is especially true of textbooks and other reading material that students will often only need for a handful of readings. Faced with increasing costs, many students are bypassing the traditional campus bookstore, opting to buy and sell books online.

Earlier this month, a new website,, joined the ever-expanding market of online discount stores that cater primarily to students. The outlet was founded by group of students from New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers, and University of Connecticut who hoped to "decentralize the source for college material."

Billing itself as "The Smart Way Through College," the new store is a commission-free service that aims to bring together students from universities across the county together in a bulletin board format. "It allows students to find each other," said Karl Yang, project researcher for the website. "The actual exchange can happen in person or however they want it."

Presently, 10 universities, ranging from Hampshire College in Massachusetts to University of Texas Arlington, are registered on the website. The University of Chicago and University of Illinois-Chicago are the only two schools in the area currently trading on the website.

Devon Ryan, A.B. '02, who administers the University's Marketplace (, a website that University of Chicago students use to buy and sell goods, was not impressed. "While the benefit of such sites is that they can have a wider user base, it is unlikely that users will trade items outside of their locale," he said.

Ryan explained that shipping charges detract a large number of potential buyers and sellers, since low costs are usually the primary consideration for students who resort to buying and selling online.

"You'd be better off using where at least the shipping is free if you buy enough," he said.

Ryan pointed out that College X Changes is a commercial website, though it "looks a bit nicer" in soliciting advertisements. By contrast, he said, Marketplace is a simple community bazaar and isn't interested in making money.

"There have been a lot of sites like College X Changes in the past few years. Either they have not gained popularity or they've gone out of business. I have no reason to believe that College X Changes will be any different," Ryan said.

Jennifer Murphy, a third-year in the College concentrating in political science, echoed the sentiments of many students surveyed when she said that she had no plans to patronize the new outlet.

"You need to have a lot of books and a lot of members for the site to be worth it. Otherwise you search and don't find anything," she said.

Murphy predicted that the website would not be very successful.