One of the biggest hassles in college life involves buying the textbooks that are essential for our courses – or in many cases, would seem to be essential, until you realise half-way through the semester that you’ve spent anywhere from 25-60 euro on a new book that you only ended up having to flick through once or twice.
One solution is to simply avoid buying any books and borrow from your college library as required – which works great, assuming that you don’t have to battle with your fellow students over a limited supply of that essential book. However, that is the case with pretty much any course book that is actually useful.
A compromise would be buying the textbook second-hand. However, many students don’t know where to start looking for a second-hand academic text, as these textbooks are usually not the type of books that one often finds in an average Easons branch or an ordinary second-hand shop.
However, NUI Galway Alumni Paddy Moynihan, along with his friends Willie Eviston and Cian Hennessy, have come up with a solution. Unibooks.ie is an online shop where anyone can buy and sell second-hand textbooks.
Since launching Unibooks at the end of May this year, visitor numbers for the website has been growing quickly. In the first month there were just over 1,000 unique visitors to the site.
These numbers grew to over 3,600 last month – which is pretty impressive, considering that the summer holidays would be the quietest time of the year for students selling and buying books.
So, as you can imagine, the team behind Unibooks.ie are confidently predicting further increases in traffic as classes start again this month.
Paddy Moynihan kindly agreed to answer questions about the motivation and background behind Unibooks.
What inspired you to create Unibooks?
The idea for Unibooks came from our own experiences in college. During the entirety of the course you are recommended to get a large amount of books, most of these aren’t necessary and are only recommended, but even the necessary books build up fairly quick after the four years.
Myself, I wouldn’t have been the best in the world to buy books, as I mostly just borrowed what I needed from friends or the library. However, I even found that once I was in final year I had a little stack of near unused books at the foot of the bed. These books all costed a substantial amount, and it seemed like a bit of a waste to just throw them in the attic never to be seen again. So I tried, very unsuccessfully, to sell them through the usual classifieds sites and the likes.
The two lads [Willie Eviston and Cian Hennessy] also had identical experiences in Dublin and Limerick, so we decided to look into it more and it turned out that there really wasn’t any easy outlet to sell on second-hand college books for every college, especially for students that have graduated and moved away from campus, so we decided to set up a service to change that.
We started setting up the site while speaking to current students and faculty staff and the result, a year and a half later, is Unibooks.
How to you intend to bring in revenue from Unibooks?
Unibooks is funded by charging students a very small fee to sell their books on the site. The prices are €2 to place a single for sale or wanted ad on the site, or €5 to get unlimited membership to the site for four years- this means you can sell and request as many books as you wish over a period of 4 years.
The four years was decided to give students access to the site for the duration of an average college course. We have kept the prices down as the whole premise of the service is to save students money, and given that on average books sell for about €40 for a single book, these are very reasonable prices.
Do you believe that there is scope to expand the range of services and items that can be offered through Unibooks?
Perhaps e-books or stationary or something similar. At the moment though we are just focusing on continuing to improve the service to make it as easy as possible to sell on no longer required books.
How many people are involved in operating the website, and do you have any plans to hire more people as the traffic on the website increases?
Currently there are three of us. We were all involved in developing the site and we now share the day to day tasks of managing the site between us.
However, with the rate the site is growing… we will be soon looking to hire another person to look after the customer service end of things. We expect to have a new hire start with us by Christmas.
For more information about Unibooks.ie, just click here.