Philip Miller, the founder and executive director of the Tufts Textbook Exchange, poses for a portrait in Tisch Library on Feb 1 2018. (Kirt Thorne / The Tufts Daily)

Textbook Exchange saves students an estimated $77,000 this year

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Textbook Exchange allows students to buy and sell used textbooks without relying on the bookstore, according to Philip Miller, TCU Senate Education committee chair and the founder and executive director of the Textbook Exchange. Miller, a sophomore, said that the exchange has provided students with a much easier way to buy and sell textbooks at reasonable prices.

Miller said that the textbook exchange was set up as an alternative to selling books back to the bookstore, which is often costly, and selling used books on sites like Amazon, which can be labor-intensive.

“The benefit for the student is they just drop their textbook off with us, they fill out a form and then they don’t have to worry about it,” Miller said. “They’ll be Venmo’d automatically or they’ll be emailed telling them to pick up their cash.”

According to Miller, the Textbook Exchange has sold $97,283.45 worth of textbooks since opening in the fall, out of $165,417.75 worth of textbooks listed. This money is entirely exchanged between students, as TCU does not take fees or cuts, according to Miller. He also said that the price listed is exactly what the seller receives.

“Basically, we facilitate the communication between the buyers and sellers of textbooks,” Miller explains. “It’s mainly getting the money from the buyer to the seller and having a physical location for the textbook exchange.”

Miller said the exchange has saved students $77,000 so far this year, an estimate based on the prices of used books sold at the bookstore.

It is unclear whether the textbook exchange has affected sales from the Tufts BookstoreBoon Teomanager of the bookstore, said.

“Our textbook sales are consistently impacted by many outside factors that can cause increases and decreases in sales. There are usually student groups or outside competitors that pop up each year which deter some sales from the store, but since it is always a factor, it’s tough to say whether it is a factor in comparative sales,” Teo told the Daily in an email.

Teo says the bookstore’s main concern is making sure that it can provide every book required in the course catalog, while keeping them affordable for every student. He believes that the bookstore will remain the primary source of textbooks for the Tufts community.

The Director of Technology and Data Analytics for the Tufts Textbook Exchange Emerson Wenzel, Assistant Director of Technology and Data Analytics Kevin Bae and Allen Zhou, all sophomores, are already working on implementing new technologies. Their new spreadsheet design serves to help sellers decide how to price their listings and show them the prices at which other sellers have listed the same book. 

“There is a graph of the price of a book versus the date it was sold, and the color indicates how long it has been on the market,” Wenzel told the Daily in an electronic message. “The idea is you would price your book where the green dots are if you want to sell your book quickly, and price it where the red dots are if you want more money.”

Miller noted that 800 books have been sold this year, out of close to 1,300 listings. This number is only rising as more and more students become aware of the service, he explained.

He added that he was hopeful that the exchange would expand.

“I hope it does grow as people get the word out,” he said.

Miller added that he believes the availability of relatively inexpensive textbooks will help attract student interest. He said he is also open to expanding the service to other schools, though he wants to streamline the system at Tufts before implementing it elsewhere.

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