CSULB alumnus creates new textbook trading app
The app allows students to sell textbooks to other students on the same campus
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If Cal State Long Beach alumnus Alexander Santamaria had not won the 2013 CSULB Innovation Challenge, his new textbook app would still be a dream in the making.
Santamaria earned first place in the online innovation competition with his app “Textbookhouse”, which allows students to sell textbooks to other students enrolled at the same school.
The distinction brought with it a $10,000 prize in seed funding, an office space and marketing services to develop his app, according to the Innovation Challenge website.
“The app is considered a market disruptor,” Santamaria said. “It empowers the students to become their bookstore and dictate the price or trade and use other books as collateral.”
Santamaria first launched Textbookhouse as a website in 2009 but converted it to an app to make it more accessible, and it is now available in the Apple App Store said Santamaria.
Santamaria, who graduated from CSULB in 2013, said he got the idea for the app while attending San Diego Mesa College in 2009.
He struggled financially while attending San Diego Mesa and University of California, San Diego. He had a hard time purchasing books, which prompted his idea.
“You can rent, but that doesn’t save you much money,” he said. “It’s the overall frustration of acquiring textbooks.”
Some students, like junior health science major Helen Morris, said they agreed that textbooks are too expensive and that the app may be an option to help them save money.
“The book prices at the [University Bookstore] are too high,” Morris said. “[The app] is a good idea because it gives another alternative to save money besides Amazon and eBay.”
Sophomore history major Edgar O’Brien said he is excited about the app, but it will need a lot students to make accounts on the app for it to be effective.
“It’s a great idea, but I think it’ll only work if a lot of students from the school sign up,” O’Brien said. “It’ll be awesome if this app takes off.”
Before launching the app, Santamaria said he conducted beta testing at Santa Clara University to determine the app’s integrity.
He said, though, that without the CSULB Innovation Challenge, the app would not have been completed so soon.
“I would have done it eventually but not as quickly,” he said.
Before winning in 2013, Santamaria also placed second in the 2012 Innovation Challenge for the same app.
The Innovation Challenge allows CSULB students to showcase their ideas in front of experienced business professionals said Barbara Barcon, a College of Engineering advisory councilmember.
“[The Innovation Challenge] is for any student or any participator as long as someone on their team is a CSULB student,” Barcon said. “The challenge allows the teams to be exposed to our mentors.”
These mentors, Barcon said, typically have their own successful business or have owned a business, and they advise each participating team on how to run a business, whether or not that team wins.
Barcon said Santamaria took the judge panel’s advice at the 2012 Innovation Challenge and used that advice to win first prize in the 2013 Innovation Challenge.
“[The Innovation Challenge] shows the creativity of the students,” Barcon said. “You never know what ideas will come up. You don’t know where the next big idea will come from; it can be from Long Beach.”
Textbookhouse is currently available on IOS only but will be made available on Android as soon as funding is available, according to Santamaria.
The fourth annual Innovation Challenge is scheduled for April.