A Better Place to Buy Textbooks? ‘Not Your Bookstore’

By Melanie Perez


(TEANECK) – College textbook prices have risen by over 1,000 percent since 1977, according to a NBC News article.  On top of raising tuition prices, which seems to occur on a yearly basis, students have no choice but to acquire textbooks that are often required to take their courses.

Third-party retailers like Chegg and Amazon have made the textbook purchasing process significantly less expensive, but not by much.  So what alternatives do students have?

One option is to fill out the IRS 8863 form, where students may qualify for up to $2,500 in returns for money spent on textbooks in a given year (find the form at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8863.pdf).

Another option is to sell your textbook at Not Your Bookstore, a mobile university bookstore database that allows students to independently sell their own textbooks to other students near them.

Chi Njoku and Junior Drummond, co-founders of Not Your Bookstore, created their company in the hopes of helping students find affordable textbooks and receive money back for their textbooks at a fair rate.

“We wanted to create a new avenue for students to have access to affordable textbooks,” said Njoku.

He explained how according to his research, the inflation rate of college textbooks is the only thing that has surpassed the inflation rate of college tuition

“At the end of the semester, instead of selling it [textbooks] back to the school or letting it collect dust, you can post it onto the marketplace for all the students locally within your university to purchase it from you directly,” Njoku said.

The way the app works is that students download the app from the mobile app store, create a free account and post their textbooks in the database.  Then they connect with other students who are interested in buying that textbook.  The students are responsible for arranging a meet and payment on their own, Njoku said.

Drummond, who attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, and Njoku, who attended Barry University in Miami, said that they understood the plight of college students.

“You spend $1,000 on books and you’re expecting to get at least half of that back and you only end up with $250 – it seems like pennies in comparison,” said Drummond.

“We want the system to be like the Craigslist system where you meet with another student and it’s just a cash exchange or you pay through PayPal or pay through Venmo – the student keeps 100 percent of the money,” said Njoku.

One concern that gained national attention about Craigslist is the possibility for criminals gaining access to peoples homes by posing as interested buyers.  When asked, Njoku said that security was the first foreseeable issue they thought of.

“We try to mitigate the risks by requiring students to sign up using their student emails, their names, their phone numbers, and connect with their Facebook so you can see exactly who you’re communicating with.  Email verification guarantees that that person is actually with a university,” he said.

“We stress that students should do their purchases on campus or somewhere public – the student union, the library, the cafeteria, the gym – where you guys can have a neutral ground,” Njoku said.

The two co-founders said that their main priority right now is getting students to sign up for the app.  They said that they’re currently in negations with the non-profit Soles for Souls to donate shoes to people around the world who can’t afford them.

“What we really want is to incentivize people posting books because we’re actually in the beginning stages of discussions with a non-profit – when they download, sign up and post one book, we’ll donate a pair of shoes to somebody in the world,” said Njoku.

“The more people who download and the more who post books – the more we’re providing shoes to the less fortunate and the most needy,” he said.

In regards to making money, they charge and earn profit for rentals, never off of students’ transactions.

“How do we make profit? We do charge for rentals; there’s a fee, but it’s going to be at the wholesale price – the lowest price possible,” said Njoku, who is also the CEO of the company.

“If students are looking for a particular book, we added a plus to it – we’re actually partnering up with one of the largest e-book distributors in the nation and we’re going to be able to provide instant e-book downloads through our platform for students to do e-book rentals directly through our platform.”

Njoki said that he did not want to reveal the name of the distributer until they finalize the contract, although he did say that it definitely was not Follett Discover, which is what’s already offered through FDU.

When asked about their inspiration for the business, which had been in the making for four years, and came into fruition in two years, both Drummond and Njoku expressed a deep passion for helping people and entrepreneurship.

He said, “When you have a passion for something and see an area where you can capitalize and you’re able to make a change – go for it.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but we really just want to provide a platform for change where we’re not only focusing on education, but also focusing on human rights and empowering people,” said Njoku.

“It’s like our life-blood.  Every day we’re developing our idea and making it more accessible for students,” Drummond, who majored in Business Administration.

He also said that he believes in karma.

“We’re firmly believers that if we can do something good in the universe, that the universe will reward us,” said Drummond.

Not Your Bookstore just started its beta testing in the last few weeks, and the co-founders said that they’re looking for a lot of feedback from students in order to make the platform better.  It is invite-only, but if you would like to be part of the beta testing, you can email chi@notyourbookstore.com

“We’re focusing on the mathematic, engineering and science students because their books are the most expensive books on campus,” said Njoku.

“We’re still trying to build a little bit more traction and we’re trying to kick out the kinks, but we have this burning desire and passion in us right now because we know we’re building something great,” he said.

For more information of Not Your Bookstore, email CEO Njoku at chi@notyourbookstore.com