Still need to purchase books before spring term gets into full swing? With a new website called Book Supply Co., 60 seconds is more than enough time to find the best last-minute deals on required textbooks.
Still need to purchase books before spring term gets into full swing?
With a new website called Book Supply Co., 60 seconds is more than enough time to find the best last-minute deals on required textbooks.
If you’ve heard of Kayak.com, than you’ll have an idea of how Book Supply works. Instead of travel, it compares the prices of course books among retailers such as the Portland State Bookstore, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
You don’t need to worry about knowing ISBNs, editions or course sections. All you need to know is your PSU ID number and password. In a matter of seconds, Book Supply compiles a list of the best prices for all required texts, with links to the retailer’s website. It’s really that simple.
“We wanted to create the cheapest and easiest way to buy textbooks online,” said Shawn Kim, a co-creator of Book Supply. “For us to get any sort of money from the retailers, our interests have to be aligned with helping the students.”
Kim and his business partner, Ryan Urabe, are a pair of 27-year-old entrepreneurs who were college roommates. They’ve had successful careers in separate industries, but came together to form Book Supply last year after deciding to take a shot at starting a business of their own. PSU has been their flagship school.
Urabe is an accountant turned programmer. He explained that the idea for Book Supply stemmed from the lengthy process of helping his girlfriend, a graduate student at PSU, search the Internet for the lowest prices on all of her spendy course books.
“It was a pain in the ass,” Urabe said with laugh, a sentiment likely shared by many students. “I decided to write [a program] to automate all the choices that you don’t need to make, so all you have to do is select the best price.”
Book Supply essentially acts as an interface to my.pdx.edu by accessing the required-textbooks page for each enrolled course. Though the service is undeniably fast and convenient, Kim and Urabe acknowledged the apprehension some students may have about sharing their PSU ID and password with the new service.
“Some people might be nervous about it, but we don’t store any student information at all,” Kim said. “The only thing we process is book information, which is really publicly available data.”
Part of Kim and Urabe’s strategy for establishing trust among students has been getting involved with the PSU community. Last week they had conversations with more than 100 students to introduce themselves and explain how the site works. They are also offering prizes through social media to help spread the word.
“Without the PSU campus we wouldn’t be where we are, and we’re putting ourselves out there to prove that we’re legit,” Kim said. “We want to hear from people and what they think about Book Supply, to make it better for everybody.”
Although the young entrepreneurs are happy with how far they’ve come in a short amount of time, they are focused on growing the business and expanding its services even further to universities across the country.
“Our vision for this is beyond anything that you see today. We want to really make this into a social marketplace for textbooks, including a marketplace for students to sell their books back to each other,” Kim explained.
To learn more about Book Supply Co. and give it a try for yourself, visit
“Hopefully we’ll have enough capital to buy the .com name soon, but we’re not quite there yet,” Urabe said.