In October of this year, Paul Russo, Ph.D., SPS’s Director of Online Programs and an instructor in the Sociology program, led a team of current CUNY students and graduates to develop a free student-to-student text book exchange as part of the ApplicationsforGood codathon sponsored by the Motorola Mobility Foundation, Center for Social Innovation, Blue Ridge Foundation, and New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.
While textbooks represent 17% of tuition costs in various majors, the team believes that there are simple ways in which technology can make books more affordable. Their application—much like other online communities such as Match.com or Craigslist—combines the broad reach of the Internet with the benefits of local face-to-face interactions. Focusing on urban areas such as New York City offers the project access to a critical mass of potential users, which is necessary to make participation valuable to all textbook swappers.
The team is committed to making the bookswap student owned and student operated, following the OpenSource model, to ensure future use will have only student friendly policies. Their model is also distinct from other services such as Amazon.com because the primary mode of exchange is student-to-student swapping or monitored low cost reselling, to prevent high markups or shipping costs. The group says that over time, they are interested in adding more functionality to the site such as links to affordable housing, health services, and various types of student discounts.
The judges awarded the project the Most Promising Prize, which included a cash award and an invitation to a December 12th luncheon with angel investors. The group currently has a working prototype, and as the next version of the platform comes online, Russo hopes there will be interesting research opportunities for students to study the system as part of a capstone project or in his own course titled “The Digital Revolution and Information Society” (SOC 419). To learn more about their plans for the textbook exchange, see ApplicationsforGood.org. You can also contact Paul at email@example.com or 646.344.7247.