Several students are offering a new approach to a familiar problem — textbooks are too expensive.
“We think increasing textbook prices are absolutely unfair,” co-founder Christian DeHoyos said. “Our friends have done terrible in some classes because they couldn’t borrow a book. Competing for a necessary resource is ridiculous, especially at the collegiate level.”
The average student should expect to spend about $1,168 on course materials during the next academic year, according to CollegeBoard.org. Swaapr’s free service allows students to buy or rent books in exchange for discounted prices on services such as tutoring.
“More students, given the tough economy, are trying to find ways to get texts without paying for them and don’t do well in the class,” DeHoyos said.
Swaapr integrates a book-matching service that notifies a user when a desired book is available. Users can log in through Facebook and post the book’s ISBN number that’s stored in its database.
Rather than settling for a buyback rate that offers a fraction of the original price, students can talk with one another through the site’s messaging system and eliminate the middleman, according to co-founder Jason Vianna.
“The most important incentive for people to use Swaapr is to get the value from the books that they deserve,” he said.
Although the team agreed that the future of textbooks will be digital, DeHoyos said Swaapr solves an immediate need.
“There’s no doubt the future of texts will be digital,” he said. “We want a big enough inventory to be able to make that switch well, but in the short-term texts aren’t going anywhere. The best companies will be the ones that make texts more social, where groups will be able to study with each other.”
Swaapr started as 1nightMe, an app that would allow UCSB students to efficiently arrange carpools. DeHoyos, Vianna and Justin Kasad team took their idea to “Startup Weekend” in San Francisco last year where tech companies competed for sponsorships. They designed and programmed the site in 72 hours and became the youngest and smallest team to win in the history of the competition. Textbook rental company Chegg recruited the group to help transform the carpooling app to Swaapr and launch it on the national level.
The members are taking a year off from school and dedicating their time to the business, DeHoyos said.
“Being an entrepreneur isn’t really sexy and glamorous like some people think,” he said. “You have to eat, breathe and sleep the startup. But it’s invaluable and rewarding what you learn going against the grain. It has been a wild ride.”