As every time-strapped student knows, the Internet is a virtual wonderland of knowledge. And if Dave Patrick succeeds, University of Calgary students will have access to a virtual wonder-market for knowledge.
The fourth-year economics student found his experiences at the Used and New Bookstores less than satisfactory. As a solution he developed plans for an on-line swap site, expected to be up by Dec. 20. The site will undergo a test phase and, if successful, will expand to include users from other universities.
"From the research we've done there's not a lot of service that's university-specific and people can exchange their books," said Patrick. "They've got something similar to this nation-wide but the motives aren't for used books. It's more for if you don't see your book posted here, we can get you the book at discount price, brand new."
Those wishing to sell on Patrick's site must register on-line and provide an e-mail address, a login name and password. Buyers are not required to register. Books posted by students are organized by faculty and course number and listed with the book title, course and price. When a buyer selects a book, the Web site sends a message to the seller notifying them of the sale. To seal the deal, the buyer and seller must arrange to complete the transaction in person.
Students' Union Vice-President Operations and Finance Natasha Dhillon applauded the idea and didn't foresee any drastic effects on the SU-run Used Bookstore.
"I think [Patrick's idea] is phenomenal," she said. "The free market is where new ideas get heard. If a student is doing that, kudos to them. But we didn't see much change when the New Bookstore changed."
The new bookstore also has an on-line component for used books that operates on the same principle as Patrick's Web site, but encompasses 14 other Canadian universities.
"We never created the Web site for the bookstore," said New Bookstore Operations Supervisor Brent Beatty. "It's an option for students instead of waiting in line."
The new bookstore's on-line transactions seem to indicate a market for on-line book-buying at the U of C.
"From August 15 to September 15, we filled 183 orders in 2001," said Beatty. "The same period last year we only filled 58."
Patrick said he would be happy with 500 trades which he believes is feasible with a student body of over 20,000. He plans to advertise through word of mouth and a postering campaign.
"The world is evolving," said Patrick. "We need to start finding more efficient things, especially for students. We're broke. We don't have a lot of money."
The Web site address is www.textbookswap.ca.