|Founded to enhance students' convenience, Bilbook is a service in which university students can lend and borrow each other's textbooks. Photo provided by Bilbook.
One of the biggest worries of university students is buying textbooks. Preparing numerous books for courses is not only difficult, but also very expensive, and financially burdensome to students. With only few options available, they try to acquire books by every possible means even if it means making an illegal copy. Bilbook was established to ease the problems students face when acquiring textbooks.
Bilbook provides a service in which students are able to borrow textbooks at a cheap price. These books are lent by other students and Bilbook shares the fee it gets from lending books with the owners of the books. This service was created to lessen the financial burden of students from expensive textbooks. It also aims to improve the prevalent problem of illegal textbook copying. Bilbook started its business from this year after a trial period of last semester at Korea University. Now the number of users is over 10,000.
For this start-up, the founder of Bilbook, Lee Jun-seung, had stopped his 11-year career as an executive in a marketing company. Then he initiated Bilbook, eager to build a new company for students’ convenience.
“I believed doing what I like is much better for me rather than working in a company that pays a lot,” Lee said. “However, I wanted to build a company with policies and a culture that I favor, with a working environment that my fellow workers and I can enjoy together. Therefore, I examined numerous items to start a business and came up with ‘Bilbook.’”
During the trial period, Lee realized the great potential for this business as well as its weaknesses.
“Since Bilbook is an item that resolves the difficulty of students paying for textbooks, there was a high demand from the beginning of the project when we were taking textbook orders through Kakao Talk.” Lee said. “But it was difficult to start the service because we only had experience in digital industry unlike the current off-line business that deals with real objects. But luckily, we have now successfully stabilized the business with our team members’ hard work.”
In order to use the service, students must request books through the online website to borrow them for a semester. To borrow a book, students must pay a rental fee and deposit which they receive back when they return the books. Students are not allowed to take notes in the books, as they are to be shared among many students. If they do take notes, they cannot retrieve their deposit, and must keep the book for themselves. Such regulations are needed for students to use clean books.
As for lenders, students can lend any textbook that is used in universities, or sell the books right away. However, there are some limits on the books they can lend. Any written names on the books are not a problem. But students cannot lend books through Bilbook only when notes are written over more than a quarter of the whole page. As for the books they lend, they can get the books back any time after a year, and choose whether to leave the books with Bilbook or not.
Although the service is helpful and has become popular, starting this business was not easy for Lee. Two elements that made it hard for him was gathering suffecient funds and supporters.
“It was not easy to get funds from investors to promote a business,” Lee said. “In addition, it takes quite a long time to hire employees as we have to explain everything about the company from the business model. Now, I get donations from people who know well about me and persuade bigger investors based on the initial success. Regarding people, we always try to find excellent workers with careful consideration.”
Bilbook’s goal is to improve its service and launch a mobile application.
“We have not yet fully administer our plans into action as this semester will be another trial run to see if the service can be served nationwide,” Lee said. “We are going to improve the usability of Bilbook for the next semester and release an application within this year.”