- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

The days of doling out hundreds of dollars on textbooks at campus bookstores and receiving a small fraction of the cost when selling them back at semester’s end may be numbered.

Universities across the country are turning to online textbook exchanges that allow students to sell their used books and browse for books posted by others.

The University of Miami Student Government started a book exchange site to reduce bulletin board postings across campus, said President Vance Aloupis.

“This is basically just taking all of those bulletin boards and making an electronic bulletin board for the entire campus,” he said.

Sinapse Consulting Inc., an Arlington Web application company, is creating the site, which will debut by the end of the month. It also will allow students to post and sell electronics and appliances, said Mr. Aloupis, who described the site as “very similar to EBay.”

The ‘Cane Exchange takes its name from the school’s Hurricane mascot and will be open only to people with a university e-mail address, Mr. Aloupis said.

Sinapse also worked with student governments at Purdue University and Eastern Virginia Medical School, said Chief Executive Officer and President Jonathon Lunardi. The company creates organized Web sites for student governments called LegiSlate.

At Georgetown University, the student-run DogEars.net contains a textbook exchange, a chat board, classified advertisements, a course book and a “facebook,” which allows people to post their profile and add other students to a list of friends.

Georgetown has no contractual agreement with DogEars, said university spokeswoman Julie Green Bataille. She said she was not aware whether a student organization or individual students set up the account.

Most students sell their books to the campus bookstore, operated by Follett Higher Education Group, which manages almost 700 college stores, Ms. Bataille said.

Follett says online exchanges have done little to affect its business.

“This is really nothing new,” said Pam Goodman, a Follett spokeswoman. “Students have always exchanged. They’re just doing it electronically now.”

CampusBoox.com, a network similar to DogEars, is used at more than 25 schools. Both sites contain a section in which students can review their professors. The sites are not affiliated with the universities’ bookstores.

The George Washington University Student Association has been in contact with Sinapse, but does not have plans to start any site, Mr. Lunardi said.

Students at the University of Maryland usually return their books to the Barnes & Noble Inc.-managed campus bookstore, said university spokeswoman Cassandra Robinson. She said she was not aware of any textbook sites with which the school has an agreement.

Students are more eager to use sites such as the ones created by Sinapse instead of Half.com because they link students from the same schools, making in-person transactions possible, Mr. Lunardi said.

Harvard University sophomore Maya Frommer started her own exchange site for her dormitory in January after its e-mail list was bombarded with messages about used books. She has since opened the site to the entire campus.

“It’s hard to conduct business when you’re getting 30, 40 or 50 e-mails a day, so I thought I’d consolidate them all on one Web site,” she said.

“Some people don’t like selling books back at our campus bookstore because they only get 50 percent” of what they paid for them, she said.

Follett bookstores give 50 percent of a book’s original price if it is being used again the next semester, but do not pay students for books that will be replaced with new editions, she said.

“The problem that we seem to have is that our professors always seem to want the new edition,” said Tiffany Myers, president of the Frostburg State University Student Government Association, which is in discussions with Sinapse to create an online election module.

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