Got books? There’s an app for that

Got books? There’s an app for that

The Westerly Sun


STONINGTON — It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Randy Rubenstein.

What started out six months ago as a daydream of a smartphone application to help students cut down on textbook costs has turned into reality for the Eastern Connecticut State University senior with the help of Stonington resident Park Hersant.

On Oct. 23, Rubenstein, who is from Waterford, and Hersant officially released an app called Libro Books to the Apple App store.

Libro Books is designed to allow students to easily buy and sell textbooks with other students directly, taking out the “middleman” aspect of sending books to larger companies like Chegg and Amazon, who then distribute textbooks to buyers. Hersant and Rubenstein are taking on a business model similar to Uber and Airbnb where they don’t touch a single book but have created a platform where others can buy, sell and ship books to one another.

Rubenstein, who is majoring in business administration, said he has paid exorbitant prices for textbooks and then often only received $10 or less selling the books back to the college bookstore or other book-buyback businesses at the end of a semester.

Up until now, it’s always been easier for students to just drop off books at a bookstore to be resold than manually type in information about a book to sell it at a better price on websites like Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, Hersant said.

The interface of the app is clean-looking and easy to use, allowing users to simply use a barcode scanner to get information on the book to sell.

“In all, it only takes about 15 seconds for a student to post a book on Libro to sell it using the barcode scanner and the barcode on the book,” Hersant said. “It’s a way to share the spread between the buyer and the seller in an expedited way.”

The app also allows users to see where sellers are located, so rather than shipping a book, two students have the option to meet on campus. Payment is exchanged through the app by credit or debit cards, and although the app is free, the service does charge a 10 percent processing fee that pays for credit-card processing and further application development.

“The whole spirit of the app isn’t for us to make money,” Hersant said. “It’s for college students to buy and sell textbooks at more reasonable prices and make the whole process much easier. The beauty of the app is in its simplicity.”

When Rubenstein first came up with the idea for Libro Books in the spring, he was Hersant’s intern, and was helping him develop an idea for another app, which was later put on hold by its funders due to the complexity of the coding needed. Hersant was told that although he has an extensive background in information technology and consulting, he should get experience building a smaller, less costly app to build his credibility in the smartphone-application industry.

After discussing the matter, the pair realized Rubenstein’s idea for Libro Books was the perfect opportunity to develop a smaller app they could self-fund while giving Hersant the experience he would need to later develop his own application. Working out of Hersant’s Stonington home, they came up with a name — Libro Books — and began turning the concept into a reality.

With the help of Hersant, Rubenstein recruited fellow ESCU students Jeremy Battye of Reading, Mass., and Ivan Riquelm, of Storrs, Conn., to volunteer their time and abilities to do the coding for Libro Books.

With the app out and usable, investors are very interested, and according to financial projections, Rubenstein could be the next tech millionaire in 2016.

At the moment, there are no other apps offering a peer-to-peer book exchange, and Hersant and Rubenstein hope to also market the app to parents of private high school students who also have to purchase textbooks for their teenage children.

Although some users have asked them to expand the capabilities of the app, they’ve gotten very positive feedback about its current functions.

“We have about 1,000 people looking at the app, some using it, others just seeing what it’s about,” Hersant. “Our initial goal was to get the buy/sell feature up, and now we will start to build in other features.”

Because it is mid-semester for students and most already have their textbooks, there are not yet many books on the app. But Hersant said he hopes the inventory will expand in the next month or so as the semester winds down.

Hersant and Rubenstein have a three-year plan in place for marketing and are looking to expand into Central and South America, where they use textbooks published in the United States that have compatible barcodes.

bwhite@thewesterlysun.com


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