Students get cash smart with new app Bookswap

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Students get cash smart with new app Bookswap

Sharjah tech-whiz helps strapped-for-cash pupils by launching mobile application where university textbooks can be bagged for half the retail price.


Kelly Clarke

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Published: Tue 18 Feb 2014, 12:58 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:49 PM

Students are notorious for scrimping and saving, and one Sharjah pupil has done his bit to make sure they don’t have to dig deep when it comes to forking out for university text books.

Khashayar Nikravesh

In an age where iPads have wiped out the need for pens and paper in the classroom, 20-year-old Khashayar Nikravesh created a mobile application and accompanying website back in September 2013, where students can go online and buy course text books at slashed prices.

Catching him during a rare study break, the American University of Sharjah student tells Khaleej Times how the idea came about.

“We basically identified a need for students here. There was no place where they could buy second-hand books, so I wanted to create a kind of sharing system.”

The Iran-born student describes the Bookswap app as a “kind of classifieds system” that allows students to search for books related to the course they are studying, before contacting the seller direct to negotiate a buying price.

And with first-hand books usually costing between Dh300-500, it allows these cash-strapped students to bag books for up to 50 per cent less than the retail price.

“It’s up to the students to haggle on prices and get the best deal,” Nikravesh said, adding that the option for students to do a straight swap on books is also available.

The UAE and beyond

Now with 400 users and more than 650 books listed online, Bookswap is gradually picking up momentum in the UAE, and with users constantly providing feedback on the service and few similar applications on the market, Nikravesh is hopeful that with a few minor adjustments, it could go global.

“I think there is huge potential for the app in the GCC region, and even the US and Europe. I wanted to launch it here first to get some customer feedback and see what changes need to be made to improve it.”

Currently undergoing a redesign, a 2.0 version of Bookswap will soon be up and running, with new features including full text information as well as an image of the book’s cover facilitating ease-of-use for users.

“By simply providing the ISBN number, students will have all the information about the book on hand. I’m also overhauling the interface for the iOS app and website to make it more user friendly,” Nikravesh says.

Those wishing to list books for sale needn’t worry about laborious form filling either, as one of the app’s newest features will allow sellers to simply scan the book’s barcode, which in turn will transfer all the relevant information onto the app. So, all the student has to do is name their starting price.

“I wanted to facilitate simple steps and quicken the whole process of listing items for sale,” he says.

Putting minds at ease

For those of you wary of sharing you credit card details over the web and questioning just how safe the app is, payment security concerns are not an issue on Bookswap, as no payment transactions take place online.

All too aware that the alarm bells start ringing when it comes to online payment security, Nikravesh made the decision to leave all transactions the sole responsibility of the students themselves.

“I know people don’t like paying for things online, hence why I chose not to set up an online payment facility. This way, students get to see the text book first hand before handing over the cash too. This has proven to be a popular feature.”

Support drives success

Initially putting forward the Bookswap idea to his university professor, the Management Information Systems student says he was always keen to get into application programming, so thought he’d kill two birds with one stone by providing a service for students in the process.

“I initially approached my professor to see if he thought the idea of creating the app was worthwhile. He was very supportive and thought the app would catch on well among other students.”

The initial design process began in August 2013, and after five weeks under development, the dual system went live in September 2013.

To familiarise people with the app, Nikravesh took to social media to promote Bookswap, and set up a Facebook page which currently has 193 likes.

The ambitious student also used word of mouth to get students talking about the app and he is constantly looking for new ways to get more students on board.

Admittedly a very driven teenager himself, Nikravesh says he owes a lot to his professor, Ali Khawaja, who teaches at the university’s School of Business Management.

“He pushes many of his students to be original and foster new ideas,” Nikravesh told Khaleej Times.

Just six months after its official release, Bookswap continues to garner huge popularity among students in the UAE, so if you’re looking to save a few pennies on your path towards a fruitful career, let Bookswap be your first of many smart decisions.

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