Site offers alternative to Water Street Books

Joey Kiernan ’11 may have finally developed a viable alternative to buying textbooks at Water Street Books. His new Web site, Spring Street Books, found at www.springstreetbooks.org will help students find and sell used textbooks on campus and assist the search for cheaper textbooks online, according to the mission statement posted on the site’s home page.

“I made the site because I thought it would be a fun project that could actually help out the community as a whole,” Kiernan said. “I’ve been teaching myself Web design for awhile now, so after coming up with the idea it was just a matter of putting in the tens of hours it took to actually put it all together.”

Spring Street Books is, at its core, fairly simple. In its final state, the site will have a list of all classes in the course catalog and the ISBN numbers associated with every textbook. At the moment, however, Kiernan has only inputted data for a few classes. When a user selects a class, the site checks both Amazon and eBay for the lowest used and new prices available online. It then presents this information in comparison with the price of the new book at Water Street Books, which Kiernan said is usually around $20 more expensive than the Amazon price.

A second and perhaps more innovative aspect of the site is the option that allows students to sell their used textbooks on Spring Street Books. These used books, with prices set by the individual students, show up alongside the online and Water Street options. “The used book exchange portion will surely save students tons of money,” Kiernan said. Any student can log in at the moment, but eventually the site will require Williams unixes to post books for sale.

In addition to helping students save money when buying textbooks, Kiernan has worked a mechanism into the site that could help the community in other ways. “Anytime a book is purchased on Amazon or eBay through the site a small portion of the sale price is kicked back to Spring Street Books,” he said. “I have designed the site to be completely non-profit and all of those kickbacks will come right back into the community as a whole.” Kiernan said he has made preliminary contact with the 1914 Library, but has not determined as of yet where the funds will go.

The amount of money kicked back to Spring Street Books, to be ultimately donated somewhere in the community, shows up right next to the links to buy the books from Amazon and eBay. “[It will be] sort of cool to be donating to a good cause just by buying a textbook for your class,” Kiernan said.

While at the moment the site is operating with basic functionality, Kiernan said that the project as a whole is still very much a work in progress. In addition to inputting the rest of the class textbook data and determining what to do with the revenue, Kiernan plans to work with other students and professors, as well as potentially administrators and Water Street Books. “It’s too much for me to do all by myself,” he said. “I envision this as a ‘for the community by the community’ type of project.”

In terms of competition with Water Street Books, Kiernan maintained that he did not want to drive the bookstore out of business. However, he did express hope that allowing students to sell used books directly to one another, rather than selling them back to the store, “would severely undercut Water Street’s prices.”

When contacted for an interview, Water Street Books Manager Richard Simpson declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Faust Petkovich and Greg Sherrid, staff writers.