University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee senior Dylan Katz Pinkus is majoring in economics, but he's not waiting for graduation to put his skills to the test.
He's launched bkbid.com, an auction-based Web site that allows UWM students a place to list, sell and buy textbooks and other class books. He sees it as an alternative to the school's bookstore system, which usually charges top dollar with little return at the end of the semester.
"My freshman year, just like everybody else, I bought probably $500 worth of books and didn't really think anything of it," he says, assuming he'd see some of his cash again as classes ended.
A few months later he learned what every new college student learns: you don't get squat.
"I've been offered $10 for an $150 book; sometimes nothing at all. It's just what everybody puts up with I guess."
He knew there had to be a better way.
BkBid.com began in 2007 as a Craigslist-type site where students could post their books for sale, but soon changed to a bidding Web site -- similar to eBay -- allowing sellers to receive the highest value for their books. But unlike eBay, BkBid.com is free to use and has no posting or shipping fees.
"A lot of these books that people buy and sell are targeted on one campus, so it allows users to meet in the union to exchange books when the sale has been processed so they don't have to pay for shipping fees," he says.
In the future, Katz Pinkus plans to expand his service to other campuses across the country and shipping fees would apply to the seller in those cases.
Sellers create profiles on BkBid.com and using a book's 10-digit serial number found on the barcode, the system automatically finds the listing's description and image and uploads it for the user.
Katz Pinkus is working on a wishlist feature that would alert users via e-mail when a desired book is posted online.
BkBid.com currently has 38 users but with the help of UWM's Student Association, Katz Pinkus will have access to a campus-wide e-mail list and a booth in the student union.
"At the beginning of next semester I'll be at a table in the union with a scanner, as well. Students can line up with their books and I'll scan them all once they register as a user," Katz Pinkus says.
The advantage the university bookstores have over BkBid is their relationship with publishers and ability to offer brand new books. Still, the young entrepreneur says he's not out to eliminate the traditional system; just provide an alternative to it.
He hopes that his college-specific target market will attract advertisers to his site so that it can grow, but in the meantime he's happy to provide a money-saving service for students, by students.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”