An online bazaar for books
Computer science students launch online exchange site


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10 April 2002 | Call them geeks if you must, but don’t disparage their knack for the practical. Campus computing whiz kids — hoping to contain their school book budgets — have devised a simple scheme for buying and selling pre-owned tomes.

Launched just a month ago, “Berkeley Book Exchange” is a crisply designed web site where campus booksellers and buyers can directly exchange their goods.

“Initially, what we really wanted to do was set up something like an e-Bay for Berkeley,” said Sarthak Shah, co-founder and vice president of the Computer Science and Business Association, the student organization behind the new online service. “But we thought it would be a little too complicated, and e-Bay is already very good. So we decided to stick with only books.”

On the web site, located at, sellers post their used course textbooks, free of charge — typically asking for 60 percent of the suggested retail price — and readers browse by course title, contacting the seller by phone or e-mail when they spot a book they want.

Shah says his computing club built the web site in just a week, using software code donated by University of Texas students who had created a similar book exchange.

After a bit of tweaking and design work, the Berkeley students launched the site in mid-March — and have felt amply rewarded for their efforts. “Everyone loves it,” says Shah.

In the first few weeks after launch, he says, 75 students listed 250 books. He predicts the site will see more traffic at the end of the semester, when students typically exchange their textbooks for greenbacks.

If and how the book exchange will impact local bookstores is an open question. At the Cal Student Store, which also sells used books, director Les Dean notes, “Many campuses have a book exchange. I don’t think it will have a big impact on us.”


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