How to create a really working book exchange service?

16.11.2018   Anton Bondarenko

Initially, the task was set before us: to design a new commercial online book service with competitive advantages. Already at the early stage of the discussion, it was decided to concentrate on children's books that had been in use (that is, not new ones).
Why so?
First, because it is for children that it is important to read books in paper, and not in electronic form.
And secondly, if there are already quite a lot of competitors in the primary market, and their proposals are very similar (in fact they boil down to selling paper books through online stores and through offline stores), then there are interesting opportunities in the secondary market.
Some parents who have enough money are buying new and new books for their children. And children are often not interested in reading the same book for a long time. As a result, a lot of unnecessary books that take up space gradually accumulate at home. But many do not want to give these books for free, because a lot of money has already been spent on them.
Other parents do not have the opportunity to spend enough money to buy the desired number of children's books. Yes, and many parents would not refuse to reduce their spending on books.
Here, it would seem, the problem of the secondary use of books was solved with the help of children's libraries. But this system does not work well. Because in children's libraries there is a very limited assortment (new books standing up are not often included). And, in general, children's libraries are not very popular with the target audience.
And all sorts of free-of-charge implementation of the exchange of books are not very popular. Because all free services - often come to a standstill.
As a result, when setting the task, we narrowed the focus: we need a solution that could involve the widest possible audience of parents (they choose and buy books for a children's audience), and would allow to bring the maximum number of non-new children's books to the market.
Having discussed many possible solutions using examples from other industries, we finally came to a decision based on the active use of “offline places”. Those. various institutions and organizations where some people can bring books, and other people from there pick up books.
But 4 important points:
First, in our system, the old (previous) owners continue to own the book, which is already on sale in one of the “offline places” until the new (next) owners buy (pay for) these books.
Secondly, we decided to give everyone the opportunity to create their own “offline places” within our project, sharing with them the income from the books sold in each such place. By the way, we called such “offline places” in our project “bookshelves”.
Third, we decided to limit the range of children's books so that people would not try to take any unnecessary children's books there. After all, many of these books are already in low demand by the audience and will only in vain occupy a place in our “offline places”.
Fourth, we decided to standardize prices so that the price of each selling copy of the book was determined automatically based on an assessment of the state of its depreciation.
In addition, it was important for us to motivate people not just to buy once each of the new books that are not for sale, but for each book to change as many owners as possible on average. As a result, more parents can save and more children can read each book. And we, in turn, could earn a percentage of each transaction when changing owners of the book.
For the implementation of the latter goal, we for each book that will be distributed through our system, use a sticker with a QR code in which a unique number is “sewn”.
Well, in addition, we use the whole range of feedback (ratings, comments and complaints) that site users can post: about “offline locations”, about books and specific copies of books.
As a result of the joint design, a full version of the solution and an initial version with limited functions, which can be launched in a short time, would be designed.