University book store pairs with Internet service

By Erika Strebel

Charlie Chidley, senior in LAS, has given up the search for the best deal on textbooks.

“I always shop at T.I.S. (College Bookstore). It just makes life much easier,” Chidley said. “I probably should shop around more but they’re all roughly the same price.”

The Illini Book Exchange, a student-run Web service, provides a marketplace for students like Chidley to sell and buy books from one another, eliminating some of the cost.

Beginning this semester, the Illini Union Bookstore and the Illini Book Exchange will collaborate to offer students less expensive textbooks and course materials.

Beginning Tuesday, the bookstore’s lobby became the official Illini Book Exchange location. The bookstore has provided the Illini Book Exchange with a list of department-approved textbooks. The organizations will also coordinate their Web sites to promote both services and allow students to compare prices.

While the Illini Book Exchange offers a $40 average selling price for textbooks, students may have to go about meeting the seller or buyer they made an agreement with, said Josh Sulkin, graduate student and president of the Illini Book Exchange.

“I think there are some draw backs,” Sulkin said. “Number one, am I sure I have the right book? And number two, it’s usually better to meet in a crowded place.”

The collaboration between the two organizations takes care of both problems, Sulkin said, and will encourage more students to use the Illini Book Exchange.

“We have 10,000 regular users and take in eight to 10,000 new users a year, all out of a campus of about 40,000 students,” said Sulkin. “We’re just scratching the surface of who can use the service.”

The idea for the partnership began when Illini Union interns Fatima Aziz, Miguel Estrada, Brian Griffith, and Amanda Wysong, all members of the University Class of 2007, met with Illini Union Director Ed Slazinik. The five discussed how the bookstore could provide better service and prices, then approached Sulkin and presented the idea to the bookstore managers, with his cooperation.

“We know there’s a risk but service and image are more important than the sales,” Aziz said. “We wanted the IUB’s image to be more than just the top seller – we wanted to project that we also care about students and providing the best information and prices.”

In the future, the shelves of the Illini Union Bookstore may not only hold new and used textbooks, but textbooks that students sell through the Illini Book Exchange as well, the interns said.

“What we’re doing this fall is hopefully just the tip of the iceberg,” Slazinik said. “We will be jointly marketing this fall and meeting to discuss further partnership opportunities.”