3 October 2019

An online platform providing used textbooks at knockdown prices is helping a Business School student open a new chapter in social and sustainable entrepreneurship.
Tom Chapman outside the Business School

Tom Chapman, a graduate of our four-year Business with Enterprise and Innovation degree, has taken forward an idea that he and colleagues developed in class. They rose to the challenge of coming up with a venture that delivers social and environmental value.

Textbooks are not currently easily recyclable, as the glue that binds them together prevents them from being recycled alongside other mixed paper. Added to that, the cost of buying new textbooks is a significant expense for students. The cost of books and other essential university equipment for students across the UK is estimated to cost approximately £60 per month per student.

The marketplace set up by Tom and colleagues is called Quillo and is a subsidiary of an existing South African student platform. It is free to use and makes educational material more affordable while also recirculating books, meaning fewer will be printed, and a reuse lifestyle will be promoted.

The textbooks available will be of interest to students beyond the Business School. They range from the Complete A-Z Economics Handbook to Pre-calculus Demystified and The Scottish Legal System.

There's clearly a social benefit to making books more affordable.
Tom Chapman

Tom, originally from Zimbabwe, said:

"I was always interested in entrepreneurship, understanding what trends will move markets. I want to give back and understand the impact on those around me.

"The social and sustainable task led our group to wonder about all the textbooks that accumulate over the years of studying. There was no efficient platform to donate or distribute these textbooks. Yes, there's eBay and Amazon but these aren't dedicated sites, the paperwork to become a seller is serious, and the mark-up on old textbooks can be extortionate.

"There's clearly a social benefit to making books more affordable. Ours can be 70% less than the price elsewhere. We're pushing the project via social media. Textbooks are just the start. We have so many more ideas."

Tom added:

"Along with events such as Make Your Mark, the Business School's courses are great as they get you thinking and help you meet like-minded people. The school can be proud of making social and sustainable entrepreneurship central. My generation is really focused on these qualities."

This will not just save students money on textbooks, it will also reduce waste and produce social value.
Dr Ben Spigel

Dr Ben Spigel, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship, said:

"Tom's hard work in Quillo is exactly the outcome we want to see from our entrepreneurship classes here in the Business School.

Tom was able to use his Social and Sustainable Entrepreneurship Class to refine the idea by engaging with customers and other stakeholders. This set him and his founding team up to build on that work by going live and developing a product that's set to be rolled out to Edinburgh students over the next year.

"This will not just save students money on textbooks, it will also reduce waste and produce social value by getting unused textbooks into the hands of people who really need them."