Hinsdale Central mom creates online textbook exchange to help parents save money

Tired of paying full-price for expensive textbooks and not receiving much for them at the end of the year, the Hinsdale Central PTO took the initiative this summer to set up an online book exchange.

The idea for the PTO Book Swap came “from parents saying, ‘wouldn’t it be great if,’ and ‘isn’t it a shame that’” there isn’t a better way, said Jaime Yeh, a parent of a Hinsdale Central junior and two graduates.

“I would always compare prices on Amazon and the Follett online bookstore,” Yeh said.

And with three students going through Central, they were able to hand down and reuse many of their textbooks.

“People also would share their books with friends, but it was such a small number of people,” Yeh said.

So at the end of May, the PTO decided to create an online forum where buyers and sellers could meet.

“We put it together in two days,” Yeh said.

“The school was very supportive,” and publicized the swap, PTO President Nancy Pollak said.

People can input the class in which the book will be used, the ISBN number, the condition of the book, their asking price and their email address.

The ISBN number is listed on the copyright page of every book.

“It will tell you 100 percent if you are using the same book,” Yeh said.

Buyers who want to purchase the book email the seller directly.

“Over a thousand books have changed homes and people have saved hundreds of dollars,” Yeh said. “I sold four books and made $250.”

“The beauty is some people can buy their new books and sell what they bought last year and break even,” Yeh said.

The first version of the book swap had a shortcoming.

“Some little hoaxsters went in and deleted lists of books,” Yeh said.

So she turned to her older son for help and he devised a tamper-proof system.

Yeh manages the site. When someone sells a book, she asks the seller to email her, so she can delete the listing. The sellers are fairly diligent, Yeh said. But she regularly emails reminders asking if any of their entries should be updated.

“Then I’ll get 50 or 60 emails saying, ‘Oops, I forgot to tell you.’”

The book swap will continue through the school year, although sales undoubtedly will slow.

But parents can go to the site if their child loses a book, or if the child has a tutor and they want the tutor to have the textbook, Pollak said.

Yeh said she spends five to 15 minutes a day updating the exchange.

“It’s really not a big deal,” she said, although she hopes to improve and streamline it.

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Where to look

The website to list books for sale is: http://budurl.com/sellusedbooks

Students looking to buy books should visit: http://budurl.com/buyusedbooks

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