Online Book Site To Send Funds To Student Groups

Libby Nelson

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By Libby NelsonThe Daily Northwestern

NUOnlineBooks.com will help fund student groups starting next quarter and might soon expand to two Missouri universities.

When comparing textbook prices through the Web site, students will be able to select a student group to benefit from their purchases. About 8 percent commission would go to the group, with the rest going to NUOnlineBooks’ charities, said site founder Jonathan Webber, a SESP junior and the Associated Student Government Speaker of the Senate.

“We think this is an opportunity to donate even more money to charity, while at the same time providing student groups with help with something they desperately need: fundraising,” Webber said.

He said he hopes adding student groups will increase the site’s profits enough so that charities will not lose money to student groups, but that instead both sides will benefit.

NUOnlineBooks currently donates its profits to Evanston charity Family Focus and to Living Compassion, a Buddhist group funding an elementary school for Zambian children.

The decision to include student groups followed after NUOnlineBooks’ enjoyed its most successful quarter this fall, when it earned as much money as it did during the entire 2005-2006 school year.

Webber said he sent an announcement to electronic student group mailing lists Sunday. By that evening, he had three applications and said he expected more before the Tuesday deadline.

He and the rest of the NUOnlineBooks team will evaluate student groups based on their suggestions for publicizing the Web site, their previous fundraising efforts and their need for the money, Webber said.

They probably will select between 10 and 20 groups, with the goal of each group being able to make a sizable amount of money from partnering with the Web site.

“We don’t want to write 100 checks for $20,” Webber said. “But we want to have enough diverse groups so that people have a choice.”

The site will be open to all student groups, including club sports teams and others not eligible for ASG funding.

The site also might expand to Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Missouri.

The Web site’s original developer is a student at Washington University who is interested in bringing the site to his campus. A friend of Webber’s asked about developing a similar Web site at Missouri, but expanding there is more tentative, Webber said.

Setting up a version of the site at a state school with wider course offerings would require more manpower than the current four-person team can provide, Webber said, adding that he wasn’t sure how to publicize the site at a larger school.

Webber said there is “an 80 percent chance” that the Washington University site would open by January, in time for the school’s spring semester.

Because both Missouri and Washington University start their spring semesters after Northwestern’s Winter Quarter begins, it gives him more time, he said.

It would be the third university to add a branch of NUOnlineBooks, following the addition of CrimsonReading.org at Harvard University this fall.

It would also be the second change to options for student buyers: This year the Web site added Half.com for price comparison during Fall Quarter.

Reach Libby Nelson at libbynelson@northwestern.edu.

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