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Code for Change: Student-to-student text book exchange challenge

Paul Russo, Ph.D., our Director of Online Programs, is working with a team of current CUNY students and graduates to develop a free student-to-student text book exchange as part of the ApplicationsforGood hackathon sponsored by the Motorola Mobility Foundation, Center for Social Innovation, Blue Ridge Foundation, and New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.

While textbooks represent 17% of tuition costs in various majors, the team believes that there are simple ways in which technology can make books more affordable. Their application—much like other online communities such as Match.com or Craigslist—combines the broad reach of the Internet with the benefits of local face-to-face interactions. Focusing on urban areas such as NYC, offers the project access to a critical mass of potential users, which is necessary to make participation valuable to all textbook swappers.

The team is committed that the bookswap will “student owned” and “student operated” following the OpenSource model, to ensure future use will have only “student friendly” policies. Their model is also distinct from other services such as Amazon.com because the primary mode of exchange is student-to-student swapping or monitored low cost reselling, so there will be no high markups or shipping costs. The group says that over time, they are interested in adding more functionality to the site such as links to affordable housing, health services, and various types of student discounts.

The group currently has a working prototype, and as the next version of the platform comes online, Russo hopes there will be interesting research opportunities or chances for students to study the system as part of a capstone project. To learn more about their plans for the textbook exchange, see: http://applicationsforgood.org/challenges/university-students-local-text-book-exchange-challenge.