In the fall semester of 2014, I had a couple of textbooks that I tried to sell to the bookstores, but they were offering me next to nothing in return—$10 or $20 back for books I bought for about $150 and so on. Feeling discouraged, I decided to try to sell them online as an alternative and a found a website that bought them back for $50 and up per book (still only 1/3 of what I had spent). I then started to wonder: if the bookstores are going to continue to drive prices upwards whilst keeping buy-back percentages low, why can’t we recycle the textbooks and resell them to other college students who would buy at less expensive and negotiated prices? I immediately contacted Kareem Garriga, our technical writer, about this bare-bones idea and together, we conceived the implementation of a software platform where college students could buy, sell, swap, and rent their textbooks. Our idea would be set to rival the notion of students being used as profit generators in a system that grossly took advantage of the state of the college industry by giving them a sense of recourse. We then contacted Valentine Nwachukwu, an adept programmer, in the fall of 2015 and explained the problem along with the proposed solutions. He offered many insights regarding software technicalities as well as ergonomics issues we would need to tackle. After this, I worked with Valentine over long weekends to complete the software requirements for the platform. Chumz was steadily becoming a reality.
Chumz is an Online mall that allows college students to buy and sell their textbooks to each other. The aim of Chumz is to provide an online application-based service to facilitate the trade of textbooks across college campuses in the United States (U.S). Chumz differs from other textbook rental and trading platforms in that it places full control of the textbook’s retail value into the client’s hands, rather than utilizing algorithms that significantly lower the profit that could be made by the client.
Today’s students spend millions of dollars quarterly on textbooks. In a report released by the General Accountability Office (GAO), it was revealed that students between 2002 to 2012 saw a rise of college textbooks by 82% (United States). This leads into an average of $600 being spent on textbooks per student per year as indicated by The College Board (College Board). It is important to also notice that these numbers account for students who do not purchase newly updated editions and students who share textbooks. In the grand scheme of things, it is easy to consider that most students who buy all of their textbooks may very well be “investing” upwards to $1,200 in college textbooks. The textbook industry has enjoyed quite a boom as textbook prices continue to soar. Some professors have opted to provide a more economical means for students to be engaged in their classes by not requiring the purchase of a textbook at all. However, this change comes with a slew of consequences:
School board and systems are pressured into requiring the purchase of textbooks. The absence of a required text would signal inadequate standards in education as no reference material is given to the students.
Textbook companies regain control of the market by requiring access codes for textbooks. This makes trade impossible and requires students to pay full price at all points of the textbook life-cycle since access codes are unique.
The textbook companies continuously update and revise textbooks so that they remain at full price. Edition changes drive more profit for the textbook industry at the expense of college students.
Many government officials have come to understand the growing problem of textbook overpricing, and have campaigned to pass legislatures such as the “Affordable College Textbook Act,” which promises to institute an open-textbook system where open-source versions of college textbooks would be free for all students (Affordable College Textbook Act). This also provides hard-copies of textbooks for those students who prefer them at an affordable price--$20 to $40 per text. The bill, in and of itself, has been pre-tested and projected for many successes and some universities such as UC-Davis and the University of Illinois have been reported to find major positive outlook in response to their open-source textbook initiatives (Castillo). Another trivial argument for open source is that a chapter or section could subsequently be added to the text and the changes would come to the student in an update—free of charge. Unfortunately, given the state of Congress, traditionalist ideals, and overall resistance to new technologies, this legislature faces many obstacles.
The fact of the matter is that with the recent rise of technologies, and given the fact that the business is based on an antiquated system, the prices of textbooks should indeed be decreasing. This business is not only making the spread of technologies more difficult, it is inhibiting opportunities for students to receive a proper education—the accumulation of rising tuition debt along with textbook prices now make education much less accessible than ever before.
Our simple application-based system will allow students to negotiate and manage their own textbook purchases and trade-ins for the very first time. Our business will effectively provide each student with the tools to properly set up an investment toward their education so that they are not at a loss when deciding to further pursue their education. The barter system embedded within Chumz is tailored above our competition to reach and connect students across the country. In this system, students can always find the most affordable, reliable, and convenient means to engage in a textbook transaction.
We are currently looking to raise $200,000 for final product development towards our final product and maintenance fees we need to launch the IOS and Android App and also we need to maintain large databases of college students that sign up and serve their needs. We currently only have the website available but we need to work together as a team to make sure this becomes a reality and eradicate the bookstores from ripping college students off by finalizing this platform because gone are the days when bookstores offer ridiculously low buy back rates and cut out students from their sale to other students by being the other man rather than the middleman the Chumz is that unites all college students across the country together and creates a textbook marketplace that is based on student needs and not market needs.
NOW WE NEED THE HELP OF EVERYONE TO PREVENT THE BOOKSTORES FROM RIPPING COLLEGE STUDENTS OFF AND LAUNCH THIS PLATFORM THAT WILL SOLVE THE TEXTBOOK CONUNDRUM AND SOLVE THE TEXTBOOK DILEMMA THAT PLAGUES COLLEGE STUDENTS.