December 11, 2012
Toby Thomson and Kenneth Costa were the two USF students behind Text Exchange, a site that launched in August of 2011 for buying and selling used textbooks. They wanted to bring a real connection between textbook buyers and sellers, and to eliminate the middleman—the bookstore. Unfortunately, they decided to close down near the end of 2012, but their story is still inspiring. It shows that students can make a difference and get involved in textbook affordability.
The Text Exchange was free and easy to use. They asked sellers to provide the title, ISBN, condition of the book, price, and contact information, while the buyers only needed to enter the course title or prefix and could view a list of titles in that subject.
Toby was quick to point out that the Text Exchange allowed buyers and sellers to have direct contact, adding a human dimension that Craigslist lacked. Buyers could ask the sellers questions about the course, and make sure the textbook was in good condition before they committed to the purchase. And, they may even become friends.
Revenue generated by advertisements kept the site going, and Toby and Ken hoped to raise enough to pay for their expenses. They were adamant that the site and its service should always remain free for students.
The site was open to all USF students at all campuses, and they planned to expand to other colleges, such as Hillsborough Community College and the University of Tampa. However, Toby and Ken chose to close down the Text Exchange before their expansion could happen. They were excited about the amount of student traffic the Text Exchange was receiving, but they no longer had the time to maintain the website and decided to focus on their academic and professional ambitions.