During his freshman year at Cal State Fullerton, Chase Dimond felt the sting of textbook prices for the first time.
“I was going to the Mihaylo School of Business and textbook prices were killing me,” Dimond said. “It was really, really hard to buy anything else, to be honest, while I had to buy textbooks.”
After the semester ended, he hoped to make some of his money back through the Titan Shop’s buyback program.
“I budgeted a certain amount, not ever thinking that textbooks from the bookstore were going to be so expensive, and I ended up spending that semester, I think, $580, almost $600,” Dimond said. “When I went to sell them back to the bookstore … I think they gave me $75 for all my books.”
To his surprise, he soon realized that even online sites, such as Amazon and Chegg, bought back books at low rates.
“I was really struggling to find a better alternative,” Dimond said. “I was like ‘Hey, I paid for all these books. I spent $600. I would like to get at least $200 or $300 back.’”
So he began to research a better way for students to buy and sell textbooks. Through some friends at San Diego State University, he heard of SDTexty, a textbook exchange site made for students to post their used books and directly sell to other students at a lower cost than they would get at the bookstore.
Imagine all the Facebook posts about selling textbooks placed onto a site that interacts like Amazon with students looking to sell their textbooks listing the book’s information, including what class they used it for, so other students can easily find that book. Since every seller on the site is a student, there is no shipping option; students meet on campus and exchange the agreed-upon price for the textbook.
SDTexty turned out to be what Dimond was looking for.
“It was literally the exact same thing I wanted to do at Fullerton,” Dimond said. “I was like ‘Oh my God, we have to bring this to Fullerton, we have to do this, we have to be a part of this.’ And I’m so passionate about this I don’t even care if this doesn’t benefit me right now, this needs to help other students.”
SDTexty was created by Ryan Heimpel, a SDSU graduate who went through his own textbook nightmare.
“The idea came when, like any other student, I had bought a book for $80. When I went to sell it back to the bookstore at one of those buyback tents they put up at the end of the semester, they gave me $10 or $15 for it, so I was like ‘Okay that kind of sucks, but so be it,’” Heimpel said. “The following semester I’m back in the bookstore and I’m shopping around for books I need for that semester, and I go by the same exact book I sold (to) the bookstore and it’s back on the shelf for $85.”
The bookstore’s high markup shocked him. He figured that if he had sold that book directly to another student at half the price he paid, then he would have received more for the exchange and the student would have paid less.
“The whole idea behind this is to cut out the middleman,” Heimpel said.
Dimond, wanting to bring that idea to CSUF, connected with Heimpel, who helped him market the CSUF version of SDTexty, Titan Texty, in Fullerton. Unlike other textbook sites, Titan Texty is free to use for sellers and buyers. The textbook exchange sites have been around “quietly” for the last year at CSUF, SDSU, and Cal State Long Beach, but Heimpel’s team has just launched a national site, texty.studymode.com, which is now in use by 17 universities, Heimpel said.
Why the need?
Dimond and Heimpel’s stories mirror a common frustration within college campuses everywhere. Between January 1977 and June 2015, textbook prices have increased by 1,041 percent, which is more than three times the inflation rate, according to NBC’s review of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
On campus, Titan Shops has two buyback offers. If a student buys a book and soon realizes he or she does not need that textbook, Titan Shops will buy back that textbook at wholesale price. However, if a student sells back a textbook during finals week, then he or she can only receive up to 50 percent of the book’s purchase price, according to the Titan Shops’ webpage. Titan Shops guarantees to pay at least $5 for a textbook, but only one that they determine qualifies for the buyback program.
Karen Barrales, a 21-year-old CSUF business administration major, said the bookstore is easy to shop in, but doesn’t always have the cheapest pricing. “Sometimes you can find (textbooks) online for cheaper, but when it comes to the custom CSUF editions, you have to buy them at the bookstore or at Little Professors.”
Barrales has spent up to $200 for one textbook, but she’s never tried to sell textbooks back to the bookstore. “I feel like they won’t give me back a good amount, so I just sell them through the Facebook pages.”
Facebook is a go-to place for many students to resell their textbooks, but it is often cluttered.
“It can be chaotic, but if you can get (textbooks) cheaper from buying it from another student, the chaos is worth it,” Barrales said.
Who’s behind the site?
The Titan Texty team consists of Heimpel, the operations manager; Dimond, the marketing and growth guru; and Ralph Chochlac, the product development and analytics manager.
Three men operating an entire company may seem daunting, but Heimpel attributes their growing success to them being fresh out of college.
“We have a really clear idea about what works and what doesn’t because we suffered a lot of the same pain that every other student does,” Heimpel said.
Dimond said that even though the team is small, they do get help from other people, and even their families. Dimond has two younger brothers who help make fliers, talk to students and make recommendations for improvements.
“It’s been really fun being the older brother who gets to teach your little brothers something about marketing, research, textbooks and how to save,” Dimond said.
What does the future hold?
Titan Texty hopes to sort through the clutter and help students easily connect.
“We are hoping it becomes a central marketplace for Fullerton to buy and sell textbooks,” Heimpel said.
Heimpel is still looking to see what students want from the site, possibly including a scrolling screen for students to browse the books on sale rather than just having a search box on the site.
The Texty sites are free to use and do not generate revenue, but the team is not concerned with that right now.
“This is really all about the students,” Dimond said. “Whatever the students want to do with it and take it, that’s where it’s going to be, so it’s really cool and we’re really excited for the ride.”