Textbook Exchange Web Sites Battle for Student Support





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Two UC Berkeley student-initiated used-textbook Web sites offering similar services are engaged in an ongoing battle for your business.

Berkeley Book Exchange and ComeGetUsed.com are vying to get UC Berkeley students to buy and sell their textbooks, free of charge, on their Web sites.

ComeGetUsed.com, which was developed in December by UC Berkeley computer science students, hopes to lure students into using its service with a guarantee of privacy, personal account management and a feedback system.

Berkeley Book Exchange (bookswap.berkeley.edu), developed a month ago and sponsored by the Computer Science and Business Association, boasts a message board system and an instant messaging feature to help facilitate student transactions.

The battle between the two non-profit sites intensified after the founders of Berkeley Book Exchange turned down a merger with ComeGetUsed.com.

"By spreading services, students would have to go to two different Web sites to sell books," said Tien-Hao Lan, UC Berkeley sophomore and executive at ComeGetUsed.com. "Apparently, (Berkeley Book Exchange does not) like the idea of helping students."

Sarthak Shah, a UC Berkeley

student and one founder of Berkeley Book Exchange, said the group turned down the merger because their site already had more registered users than ComeGetUsed.com.

The battle reached a boiling point when students at ComeGetUsed.com copied student's e-mail addresses from Berkeley Book Exchange's Web site, and e-mailed them, asking them to register their used books on the ComeGetUsed.com Web site.

Lan said he copied Berkeley Book Exchange's client e-mail addresses in an attempt to help students sell their books and not to steal the Berkeley Book Exchange's clientele, though the e-mail he sent to the students claimed that ComeGetUsed.com has a "much better organizational style."

"We didn't want to spread the market into two different places," Lan said. "All we are trying to do is to help them sell their textbooks. I don't understand why Berkeley Book Exchange would be against this practice."

Lan said he acquired the e-mail addresses by copying the student's information from the site's HTML code.

"They are not protecting any user information," Lan said. "According to the current internet law, it is perfectly legal for anyone to go on their site, grab their e-mails, and send 500 e-mails a day if they want to."

Lan said he is honoring Berkeley Book Exchange's request to stop sending spam to its clients. In response to the e-mail, Shah said he sent out a letter to the exchange's users and to ComeGetUsed.com, claiming that his competitor is "begging" for clients.

"If your site is so good, you wouldn't have to put down BBE. Thanks for trying so hard," Shah said in an e-mail to ComeGetUsed.com.

Despite the heated competition, Lan said he believes ComeGetUsed.com will "win" the used-book battle.

"I can see this battle continuing," Lan said." But I believe in the quality and the motives behind ComeGetUsed.com. We believe we can win this so-called battle. Winning simply means we are having fun and enjoying what we are doing."

APPLE Senator Noah Kagan, a founder of Berkeley Book Exchange, said the site is not about "mudslinging".

"We are hoping to put the power back into the students' hands to sell books at reasonable prices," he said. "It's for the students by the students."

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