This story was originally published in the August 31 issue of Fourth Estate.
Savannah Norton, Lifestyle Editor
Incoming freshman Cody Pasielski recently joined the rep team for CampusWise, a new student-operated book exchange website that promises to make buying and selling used textbooks easier and safer for Mason students.
“I’m very confident that GMU will welcome CampusWise with open arms,” said Pasielski. “College costs are so expensive these days, and it seems everyone is looking for ways to avoid high prices. The first thing people turn to is buying used books instead of brand new, but even used books at the campus bookstore can be very expensive.”
CampusWise was founded in spring of 2014 by Max Hall and Austin Jones, both juniors at Old Dominion University (ODU). During their freshman year, Hall pitched the idea to Jones while they were living on the same dorm floor. From then on, they collaborated to make their idea for CampusWise come to life.
“[It] is a simpler process of buying and selling used textbooks with other students on campus,” said Hall, chief operating officer of CampusWise. “We know the bookstore on campus has the books but for all these crazy prices, and online you have to worry about shipping. Also selling back to the bookstore or online, you almost never get even a fraction of what you paid for. We really saw that as a huge issue on all college campuses.”
Pasielski, who is studying government and international politics, will be the door to all things CampusWise at Mason. “What’s great about CampusWise, [is that] we don’t buy the books beforehand and resell them to students, we just provide a place for people to post what they are willing to sell which keeps the price down,” said Pasielski. “I first heard about CampusWise from our COO’s (Hall) mother, who was my German teacher throughout high school. She knew I was heavily involved in my school’s marketing and DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) program and told me all about CampusWise and its goal to make college more affordable for people. I knew after talking with her and Max that this would be the perfect job for me through college,” said Pasielski.
Hall says he and Jones looked to Facebook college class pages when designing the website’s layout after noticing how such pages were often being used by students to buy and sell books. Similar to Facebook, CampusWise features a search bar on every page, allowing students to search for books by author, title or ISBN. Hall and Jones wanted users to feel comfortable with the site as soon as they logged in.
Through starting CampusWise Hall and Jones solved two other problems students commonly face when buying and selling books: meeting a stranger and exchanging money with them. There is the issue “of meeting up on campus with someone you didn’t know at all and [to] give them $40 to $50 cash for the book. That was also a safety issue, there aren’t a lot of people who feel comfortable with that,” Hall said.
CampusWise manages all transactions through PayPal. This keeps students from having to bring large amounts of cash to a meeting spot on campus. The only thing students have to worry about exchanging now is the book itself.
“Once they have purchased the book, it starts up a conversation on our site between the buyer and the seller, then they can find a place to meet. This way they are only exchanging the actual book. We handle the payment. It is safer,” said Hall.
To register, purchase or sell books on CampusWise, one must have a student email.
“You don’t have to worry about if it is some random person. You know they are a student,” said Hall.
By this fall, Hall and Jones will have a total of 17 reps under their charge, one for each school they have targeted.
“We have quite a few Virginia schools like University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, James Madison, VCU, and George Mason University,” said Hall. “Then we have a few reps at a few of the larger schools on the East coast like Ohio State, West Virginia University, University of Tennessee, University of Florida and Florida State University. We tried to reach as many Virginia Schools as possible.”
Hall and Jones officially launched CampusWise at ODU last spring semester. “We had about 56 books sold on site, for about a total of $1,300,” Hall said. “We ended up comparing how much those books would have cost at a bookstore, and those books would have cost a little over $5,000.”
Students saved a total of $3,700 through the site, which hosted approximately 400 registered users and 303 different book postings during the first three weeks of the spring semester.
“[It is] the optimal way of buying and selling books because you are doing it with other students on campus. So you are getting the best deals on the books you need. Even just selling books, students sell them for such better prices, such reasonable prices. It’s not selling back to the bookstore for $3,” said Hall. “We are looking to make college life easier, cheaper and more convenient.”
This fall, Pasielski will be reaching out to interested students and spreading the word about CampusWise, starting with social media. “Every day on each ‘Class of’ (i.e. 2016, 2017, etc.) page there are dozens of posts by students asking for books for their classes and all I have to do is post a comment with a link to CampusWise.com and let them discover how great our business is,” said Pasielski.