San Francisco-based Slugbooks, a textbook price-comparison platform that aims to help students save money, today announced its first international expansion outside the U.S. with a site targeted at students in Canada. The company, which has over 900 schools in total on the site, lets students search via their course number and find where they can buy the cheapest option for the textbook they need. It’s launching with 15 Canadian universities in its database, and the platform was used by more than one million students in 2012.
“Canada was always sort of a tough nut for us to crack just because we’re a comparison site so we’re dependent on the inventory that’s available on these online marketplaces,” said founder David Miller in an interview with BetaKit. “And sites likes Chegg which are rental powerhouses out in America, they don’t even serve Canada, I think there’s been a little bit of a lack of awareness for cheaper options.”
Encouraged by the uptick in the usage of online textbook marketplaces by Canadian students, Slugbooks will now allow them to compare books across Amazon, AbeBooks, BookMob, CourseSmart, and their own university bookstores. Students can search for books either by courses at the 15 universities Slugbooks actively pulls data from, or by the title or ISBN of the textbook. They can also list their textbooks to sell on the platform and receive bids from other students.
Miller said students usually choose between the convenience of just going to their university bookstore and getting all their books there, or taking the time to search online to be practical about what can be significant cost savings. He added that there is usually a marked difference between liberal arts classes where paperbacks are perhaps more cheaply available offline, versus science and engineering courses where students are much more likely to find something cheaper online. The company makes around five percent in affiliate marketing revenue each time a student clicks a link and purchases a textbook.
There’s no shortage of textbook marketplaces to buy, sell, or rent textbooks, both national and university-specific, because of what Miller noted as a project many students, especially aspiring developers, take up to solve their own problems. However, he added that as far as price comparison sites go, Canada is still an underserved market. In contrast, the U.S. has more than a handful, including CampusBooks, BIGWORDS, among multiple others. There are also companies like Inkling and Kno that are completely reinventing the textbook and optimizing them for tablet consumption equipped with interactive media to make the content as immersive as possible.
When asked if Slugbooks planned to enter other international markets, Miller responded saying that a lot more work was needed in Canada for the time being. The company will look to continue to add more textbook marketplaces in addition to course data from additional universities. It also has a mobile app it uses to engage students by providing an interactive college prep list, and currently has an interactive site that is both mobile and tablet friendly. With more Canadian students looking to turn to online sources for cheaper alternatives to their campus bookstores, a price comparison site like Slugbooks will only continue the trend of shopping online to save money when it comes to their post-secondary education.