When I was in college I usually bought my textbooks online on sites like half.com and then sold them back to the bookstore at the end of the semester. This combined the best buying price with the least hassle in selling.
It was too much bother to ship a textbook, and trying to sell it locally to another student just kept not working out.
But then I didn't have access to apps like Book Cycle.
Having experienced this frustration himself, a college student by the name of Shawn Lewis Jr., along with his friend, created an app to help fix the problem. It's called Book Cycle, and it works very much like Craigslist, thredUp or eBay.
Book Cycle works by connecting college students with other students in their area to buy and sell the textbooks they need for their courses.
Users can search for the title of the book they need, or by the ISBN number. Then, when they've found a seller, the app has a built-in chat feature so you can negotiate a price. Even better, there's a price comparison tool so you can see if you're getting a good deal.
That's a great idea, but it's probably going to fail for the same reason I never sold many textbooks through the bulletin boards on campus.
The problem, as with any new marketplace, is critical mass. When no one is using a service it's just not worth the time to even try to use it.
Not enough people were selling or buying textbooks through the bulletin boards on campus (or on Craigslist, for that matter) because it was the least efficient method. I didn't sell my textbooks that way because I rarely found a buyer. Students weren't buying textbooks that way because they couldn't find the books they wanted.
Instead, we went where we knew we could find a buyer, where we knew we could find sellers.
That lack of adoption discouraged anyone from adopting, and so neither the bulletin board or Craigslist achieved the critical mass required.
Book Cycle is probably going to have the same problem. Absent a hefty marketing campaign to bring the app to the attention of college students, this app will never have enough users.
It's going to stay a ghost town, which is a pity because it really is a good idea.