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New textbook exchange website launches

By Asiya Kazi     9/7/11 7:00pm

A new website for buying and selling textbooks called Textbook Madness was launched earlier this semester by Rice alum J.D. Leonard (Jones '09).

The site's main goal is to help students find the best prices for their textbooks. This is accomplished by aggregating and displaying prices from online retail sites, Leonard said.

"In terms of finding the best price possible, the first choice should be to get it from another student on campus … The next best [choice] is to look online," Leonard said. "We provide the best way to look online because we're showing the prices from all the [book retailer] websites."

Search results from Textbook Madness are organized into different lists. The first listing displays other students who are selling a textbook on a specific campus. The other lists compare prices from sellers such as eBooks, Barnes and Noble, eCampus and Amazon.

This setup allows students to choose the most economical textbook version, whether it be an eBook or a new book. While Textbook Madness's features are not unique, the site does combine features in a free, easy-to-use format.

"The bookstore does provide a useful service to the campus because it's providing the majority of the textbooks very conveniently … but … if [students] can avoid it, they're much better off because the prices are a lot worse there," Leonard said.

Instead of buying her books from the bookstore, student Rachel Turkington bought all her textbooks from other Rice students. However, if she was unable to find books from other students, Turkington said that she would buy from the bookstore.

"It's quick and it's easy and at that point, I'd be desperate," Turkington said.

Rice is a partner school in Textbook Madness, along with East Los Angeles College and University of Texas San Antonio. Partner schools have their own classified section specifically for enrolled students. Rice students can create a listing to sell their own books, or browse through other Rice students' listings to find a used book.

Leonard's belief that there are a lot of problems with the textbook industry push him to help students in this arena. One of the chief complaints by students regarding textbooks is that prices are exorbitant, he said.

"Calculus hasn't really changed much over the past 20 years, yet for some reason they need a new edition," Leonard said. "Basically the publishers are doing that to combat the used book market."

Sociology professor Rachel Kimbro sees a positive side to newer editions.

"They are more updated, which is sort of nice," Kimbro said. "But, in general, the information's pretty much the same."

Leonard believes there are a lot of professors who are aware of the issue. Kimbro, for instance, keeps students in mind when choosing the assigned reading for her classes.

"I actually just got rid of the main textbook for this class [Introduction to Sociology] … I just didn't see any basis to keep it … I thought it was a little too basic for Rice students and I thought it was too expensive," Kimbro said.

The Textbook Madness website can be found at https://textbookmaddness.com.

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