5C Start-Up SwoopThat Streamlines Textbook Buying, Expands Nationally

At the start of every semester, cash-strapped college students begin the long process of searching for cheap books in time for classes. Some students spend hours comparing prices on Amazon, eBay, Huntley Bookstore, and student digester posts.

SwoopThat, a website founded by COO Ben Carson PO ’07 and CEO Jonathan Simkin HM ’10, hopes to make the book buying process easier and more affordable. The company, which is hosted at SwoopThat.com, was launched at the 5Cs in September 2010 and is now registered at 145 schools nationally.

In an effort to save students the hassle of searching multiple websites for book deals, SwoopThat allows students to put in their classes and then automatically searches several online retail sites to find the required books for those courses at the lowest price. Kevin King HM ’10 and Dan Halloran HM ’10 also have a hand in the company.

“We’re kind of the Kayak[.com] of textbooks,” Simkin said.

According to Carson and Simkin, the motivation to start SwoopThat came in large part from their experiences buying books at the 5Cs and attempting to navigate the Huntley Bookstore website, which they found to be time-consuming.

“Buying textbooks was such a big pain,” Simkin said, adding that their site aimed to “let students do what they want to do, which is not buying books.”

Carson said that the point of the site is to streamline the book searching process for students.

“It’s trying to help college students save money on textbooks … in ten minutes or less,” he said.

Last year, Simkin said students at the 5Cs who used SwoopThat saved a total of about $25,000 in textbook costs. The average university student spends $1,900 on books each year, he said, and this is one of the biggest national problems for low-income families seeking higher education.

SwoopThat aims to make it easier for students to attend college without worrying about exorbitant prices for books, he added.

SwoopThat also donates some of its proceeds to student governments at schools that use the site. According to Simkin, this spring semester Harvey Mudd raised $1,000, Scripps raised $300, and Claremont McKenna raised $250.

“[The donation program] was motivated because I know all the dorms and all the student governments need the money,” Simkin said.

Though SwoopThat is “definitely still in the start-up phase,” Carson said he believes the site has potential to grow even more once the word gets out to more students nationwide. He said the company is hoping to soon be registered with 500 colleges.

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