Although frigid temperatures, dangerously low wind chills and snow have been terrorizing Boston, the spring semester is just about to start heating up. And with that, bookstores will become the new, wicked force of nature wreaking havoc on college students’ lives.
The average American student spends roughly $1,200 annually on textbooks and supplies. At costs that high, it’s no wonder the founders of Texts.com, a startup enabling students to conveniently compare textbook prices, are successfully convincing collegiates to #OccupyTheBookstore.
Peter Frank and Ben Halpern, recent graduates of Wesleyan and Mount Allison University, respectively, participated in an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, stating:
We developed a Chrome plugin that overlays lower textbook prices directly on the bookstore website despite legal threats from Follett, the nation’s largest college bookstore operator.
The mention of the lawsuit helped the Reddit AMA garner a flurry of national media attention, as well as an email from someone at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit founded to defend civil liberties in the digital world.
The Chrome plugin, called #OccupyTheBookstore, works with more than 2,000 college bookstore websites maintained by Barnes & Noble, the Nebraska Book Company and Follett, according to the Wall Street Journal. The publication confirmed Follett’s legal threats, made allegedly because the startup’s software tool “is effectively changing the presentation of the information on the screen.”
The founders haven’t heard from Follett since, however. Rather, as they wrote on Reddit, they “rebuilt the extension from the ground up and re-branded it as #OccupyTheBookstore, as the user is literally occupying their website to find cheaper deals.”
The extension, which utilizes the Texts.com price comparison API, is an opt-in feature and only interacts with the end-user’s browser. If a student installs it, when they’re shopping their college bookstore online, they’ll be shown prices for the content they need from Amazon, Valore, Chegg and other third-party sellers.
Here’s a GIF, courtesy of the team, of how the extension works:
Between textbook prices having increased 82 percent between 2002 and 2013 and the average student loan debt nearing $30,000, students need all the money they can get. Perhaps it is time to #OccupytheBookstore … or at least check out Boston-based Boundless, another startup well-versed in legal jargon.
Images via #OccupytheBookstore