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Brothers create website for textbook exchange

BY KENDALL McCABE | FEBRUARY 07, 2011 7:10 AM

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After watching The Social Network, Danny Liechti and younger brother Jeff Liechti were inspired to create a network of their own.

Their site, Iowa Book Exchange, connects University of Iowa students looking to buy and sell textbooks directly to each other.

Their goal: save students money.

Launched on Jan. 2, their website has so far been more of a free service than a business — they have made just enough money through ads to pay for the upkeep of the site.

But University of Iowa senior Danny Liechti said they’re optimistic about its success.

“We have double-digit sales,” he said. “It’s going well so far.”

Based on a similar service at the University of Illinois, Illini Book Exchange, the brothers’ service allows users to post a book for sale and then other students respond with an offer. The two set up a meeting on campus to complete the transaction.

The site has around 1,000 views a day, a few hundred members, and nearly 100 sales so far, Danny Liechti said.

While he designed the functional parts of the website, Jeff Liechti, a freshman at the University of Illinois, worked on the style of the website and handled the marketing.

“We thought making something like this would be a better use of time than playing video games or sitting around the house during winter break,” Danny Liechti said.

Joe Ziegler, the book department manager of Iowa Book, said the online availability of books hurts traditional book sales more every semester. To counter Internet sales, he said, he tries to get as many used books as he can, because price is the main selling point for students.

When asked if the Iowa Book Exchange service would affect his sales, Ziegler responded wearily, “Oh yeah.”

Sophomore Alaine Hippee, said she found out about Iowa Book Exchange through a mass e-mail.

After signing up for an account, she received a gift card through an online raffle and she now has a book listed for sale.

Hippee said buying textbooks at the bookstore in the past was always a positive experience, but selling books back was a different story.

“I was offered $5 for my $120 math textbook at the end of last semester, and it was a University of Iowa edition, so it couldn’t be sold anywhere else,” Hippee said, adding such negative experiences prompted her to look for other ways to buy and sell her textbooks.

UI sophomore Margaret McElherne said she typically buys textbooks on Amazon but often receives them late because of slow shipping.

But McElherne and Hippee both noted one concern about the honesty of the seller.

“It is up to the seller to list the correct edition and quality of the book,” Hippee said. “There doesn’t seem to be a policy in place in case the book is not what the seller listed or if it is in bad condition. As long as the sellers are honest … I think the system will be very successful.”


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