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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

A textbook marketplace in the palm of your hand


Davis Senior High School students develop smartphone app for local textbook sales

High prices and long bookstore lines make buying textbooks every quarter a rough experiences. Amazon, Facebook groups and virtual textbooks are some attempts to solve this problem, but can still prove to be inconvenient. UC Davis students have two Davis high schoolers to thank in creating a new solution to this problem: Bookbag.

Bookbag is a newly released Android app that provides a community for students to sell college textbooks to one another. Users can post listings of textbooks they want to sell, search for specific books they need and set up notifications for when certain books are available. The app was developed over the summer by Davis Senior High School (DHS) students Sheehan Selim and Sam Chung. Selim understands the difficulty college students have with textbooks, having to buy books for a course he took at Sacramento City College over the summer.

“I know that college textbooks are really expensive,” Selim said. “Since [many of] the same books are used for every class basically every quarter, there’s no need for a student to buy new textbooks and sell them [back] for next to nothing at bookstores.”

Bookbag is exclusive to textbook sales as well as being in the form of a smartphone app, which provides a quick and convenient way for students to search for and sell books to other students at affordable prices. The app is currently only available for Android phones, but the ambitious high schoolers are planning to work with an iOS programmer to make it available for iPhones as well.

“Because [the app is available] on smartphones, it’s much quicker and much easier […] to post pictures [and] books,” Selim said. “There obviously are [other] platforms right now for selling textbooks […] but I wanted something more. I wanted something that emphasizes community.”

Bookbag includes a profile feature for displaying personal and professional information for transparency, as well as chat feature for direct contacting. Users also have the option of connecting their Facebook accounts with the app.

“We want to make sure everybody [on Bookbag] is real, and they have a safe and cheap way to get books,” Selim said.

When Selim came up with Bookbag as a way of giving back to the Davis community, he partnered up with Chung, an experienced Android programmer for the Davis High School (DHS) robotics team, and the two students began the project in May.

“I used a developing environment called Android Studio, which you can use Java and XML to design and program an Android application,” Chung said.

Over the summer, the pair researched, designed and programmed the app. The two students faced several challenges throughout the project, such as traveling abroad during the summer and learning new skills necessary for the development process.

“I’ll say over 80 percent of the functionality and programming part of the app was new to me,” Chung said. “I had to self-teach throughout the summer – it was tough. There were a lot of bugs.”

Nevertheless, they overcame these challenges and successfully completed the project, and released the app in early September.

“Robotics taught me that it’s not about the skill of a programmer [… it’s] if they have the will to continue […] to search for new ways to fix a problem,” Chung said. “This project really taught me how to persevere and problem-solve.”

Selim began programming the summer after his sophomore year, and the app’s success has even ended up changing his career plans.

“I wasn’t too sure if I was interested in computer science, [but] after this, I’m really convinced that I want to try to develop more apps. Now I’m considering majoring in computer science,” Selim said.

Currently, Selim and Chung are publicizing Bookbag by reaching out to UC Davis students to gather feedback from new users in order to improve the app. If Bookbag proves to be a success on the UC Davis campus, they plan to further expand to students on other nearby campuses.

“There are several Facebook groups [selling textbooks] right now, but I think that Bookbag is a really interesting idea,” said Duke Cha, a graduate student in the department of cinema and digital media. “If [Bookbag] were to be something that is picked up, we [might be] able to [sell] textbooks [on more than] one campus.”

The platform through which Bookbag is used makes it an easy download for college students.

“I can definitely see how it would be more convenient for some,” said Biftu Mume, a fourth-year microbiology major. “However, I personally tend to use things like Facebook on my phone anyway so [the experience] would be the same for me.”
Written by Jennie Chang — features@theaggie.org


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