Saman Baghestani has proposed an alternative to purchasing and selling books for college students in South Portland. It’s working so well, he’s bringing it across the bridge to USM.
Baghestani came up with the idea for a book-swap website, which he named the South Portland Book Exchange––or SoPoBooks.com. With the help of his computer programmer friend Jason McDonald, he was able to create a site where users post books they no longer need and request books they are going to need. When a match is made, the site connects the dots, and students are welcome to barter, sell, negotiate or trade favors, such as yard work, for textbooks.
“The idea came to me in a sort of ‘light bulb’ moment,” said Baghestani. “After constantly hearing students complaining about book pricing, I thought, ‘books that are not needed by one student will be needed by others. So why not create a place for students where they can buy and sell books in a timely manner?’”
Although websites such as Amazon and Craigslist have college textbooks for reasonable prices, SoPoBooks.com can make the buying process much easier by allowing students to choose what they pay for their textbooks.
“I have used the website twice as a consumer,” said Baghestani. “After selling my old books and acquiring new ones, I only spent a total of $20.00 for the necessary readings.”
When you request a book, you’ll get an email telling you when it is available, and if you post a book you’ll get emailed when someone wants it. “This whole process takes no more than a minute and a half,” Baghestani said. “Rather than have to search through endless pages of results, the website does all the work for you.”
This can be especially helpful when trying to sell books. “Buy-back programs at campus bookstores will take your $142.00 textbook and give you $14.00 for it. SoPoBooks.com does not work the same way as campus bookstores, because the transaction terms are 100 percent entirely determined by the students.”
Nicki Piaget, the USM bookstore director, said that this is not always the case. “Students can get a lot of money back for their books. The prices are based on whether the faculty are using it the next semester. If it hasn’t been ordered, USM doesn’t buy it for resale. If we don’t know if the textbooks are going to be used, we purchase for a different wholesaler, and therefore the prices go down a bit.”
However, Baghestani says that you will never have to wonder what you’ll get in return for books you want to sell, because you have a lot of payment options. “We feel that by cutting out the ‘middle person’ [in this case the bookstore], students can save and earn a lot more money with college books. We believe this is a huge reason for college students to prefer our site over the book store.”
Baghestani said that some students have expressed concerns regarding the buying and selling of old edition books. However, he also said this is not something to be worried about. Students are able to put the author, book title or the ISBN number into their search to make sure they get the exact books needed for classes.
Although the website was primarily intended for students at Southern Maine Community College, Baghestani decided early on in December to branch out to USM in order help others buy and sell books at reasonable prices. He says he hopes to make this website available nationwide in the future. “This method of buying and selling books is working for a ton of students” he said.
Baghestani hopes that every student at USM will look into the website and consider the financial benefits of buying and selling from other students. “The account is free, and it connects people” he said. “Not only is this a time saver, but you are also going to get a much better deal.