Seeing profits in used books

Students checking out the secondhand book sale known as “Durian Drop” at USM.

Students checking out the secondhand book sale known as “Durian Drop” at USM.

THE high prices of tertiary textbooks often deter students from buying the originals and turning to photocopies instead.

Another favourite alternative is to borrow the library’s only copy and hog it until they no longer need it.

The 1Malaysia Book Voucher (BB1M) worth RM250 helps but it is not enough.

On average, new textbooks cost between RM80 to RM100 each, reveals BookUp founder Mike Chu Chin Hong.

“Back when I was a student, the cost of one textbook was equivalent to a month’s lunch budget,” says the former biology student from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

“Don’t even get me started on some popular non-fiction books that sit atop the New Arrivals rack in the bookstores. Those are costly.”

Knowing that this can hinder the growth of a reading culture, Chu together with his partner Jacqueline Khoo Siew Ping, were inspired to create BookUp to help inculcate a reading culture among students.

As bookworms themselves, he says, they wanted to make it possible for everyone to afford to read without having to sacrifice lunch.

“Another matter that encouraged us to initiate this service platform is the difficulty students face after each semester to clear their textbooks; most of which are no longer needed,” Chu adds.

He says that students had one of two options, either sell them or discard the books. He shares that during his varsity years, he faced the same problem.

“Not all of our textbooks could be sold to our juniors because some of them preferred the cheaper photocopied versions.

“It is actually quite sad for us to see our books sitting on the bookshelf collecting dust. We are certain that somebody somewhere would need these books,” he adds.

The business, which is now just over a year old, obtains its books from these individuals who do not want their books anymore.

“Most of the used textbooks that we have are in pretty good condition — no missing pages, well-kept, minimal folds and highlighting,” says Chu, adding that their books are typically 20% cheaper than the original price.

Although he knew of friends who lived on tight budgets in university, Chu says he did not face the same difficulties.

“I ran my own small business back in university and lived a simple life with no unnecessary spending on luxuries. Thinking back, it was actually hard work that got me through, because I had to focus on both my education and handling a business at the same time.”

Khoo shares his philosophy on living within her means.

“I did not face any serious financial difficulties during my university years due to my saving habit and constantly controlling my spending,” she says.

He says their service is very convenient as customers just had to browse their web-store, place their order and the books will be delivered by courier. BookUp doesn’t just offer textbooks but also other non-fiction and fiction books as well, with sales numbers steadily increasing.

To ensure that students get to enjoy the benefits of their service, BookUp hosts their secondhand book sale known as “Durian Drop” at a few universities across Malaysia.

As of now, the Durian Drop has been held at USM, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman and Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kampar, and Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Tronoh. They plan to be on other varsity campuses soon.

Chu says the response they have received has been incredible, especially from lecturers and professors.

“The best part is, they show it by giving us reviews on our Facebook page. It truly motivates us to know that our ideas are well accepted and that it is actually helping people! We’re proud and happy that we have created this simple yet useful platform for people to buy and sell their used books,” he adds.

Students , books