Comparative Analysis for UBook Jakob Hilden Ashu Kaushik Sergio Mendez Doris Lu This is a comparative analysis of UBook and three other systems: Facebook marketplace, Amazon.com Textbooks, and the University of Michigan marketplace. All four systems support posting (buying and selling) used textbooks. There are similar functionalities they all support, and differences which make one system better than the other. We also tried to incorporate geographical scope when we chose the systems. Amazon and Facebook marketplace are more national oriented, while the UM marketplace and UBook are primarily directed at the University of Michigan community. UBook UBook/TextBook is an add-on function to CTools that will be used by students and professors/lecturers of the University of Michigan. UBook in particular will have the information of the textbooks to be used in the courses students are interested in, in advance before the course starts. This functionality will help students search for better and cheaper options to search for books. UBook is the part of the system that allows students to buy and sell used books with each other. Functionality UBook lists all the textbooks needed for a given course in the university. In addition, it also allows to list book by subjects. For every book there is direct link which tells how many copies for sale are listed on the UBook forum. This is a key functionality that saves a lot of time, in the other websites you have to search for individual books. For every book, the system also gives a list of bookstores in Ann Arbor where you can buy it from and the quote of the professor recommending the student where to buy the book from. The UBook portal page has two main options: 1. Need a Textbook: this is a search function allowing students to search UBook for all the used books that are there by ISBN, author, and title. The search also includes the contact information of the person wanting to sell so you can contact them and exchange the book, but unlike other sites you would have to exchange the book personally as there is no option of e-commerce. This does not supposes a problem as this is used by Michigan students only. A unique function of pricing is introduced in the UBook where the buyer can see if the price quoted by the seller is firm or he is flexible about it. 2. Sell a Textbook: this is the function allowing students to list textbooks for sell on the forum. UBook makes sure that the forum is only used for books and not as a marketplace for computers, cars or similar items. All book entries must have an ISBN number. This can lead to inconvenience because not many people know where to locate the ISBN number in a textbook. However, everyone knows about the title of the textbook or the author. As in many websites, there is also an issue of expiry, if the book post expires there is no email notification about it. UBook screenshots Functionality Matrix UBook Facebook Amazon UM Marketplace Marketplace Search by title √ (only when √ (difficult) √ √ buying) Search by author X Through √ Through description description Search by ISBN √ √ √ X Set firm/variable Firm and Firm Firm Firm price variable Add √ √ √ X comment/review Financial X X √ X transaction Advertise book X √ (sponsored X X offer links) Days offer stay 30 Don’t know 90 7 active Notification when N/A N/A Email N/A offer expires notification Books listed by √ X X X courses Contact seller √ √ √ √ No. of books for N/A 5000 in UM Millions N/A sale network Other functions X Trading of Trading of Trading of various other various other various other products products products Facebook Marketplace On Facebook's marketplace users can place simple classified that will be published within their networks. Since many universities have an extremely high fraction of their students represented in Facebook it seems a good place to buy and sell textbooks. Facebook integrated a special feature into its marketplace called “Marketplace Book Exchange” which highlights and eases its book buying/selling capabilities in August 20071. Functionality Buying books When you click on “Buy books” on the front page, the only thing you can search by are ISBN numbers. The system searches the book and if it finds it you can list it as a book that you would like to buy. If the system finds matching offers for the same book they are displayed to you, then you can view the details and contact the offering user. If you could not find the book by ISBN you can also list the desired book without an ISBN. Although in this case it does not seem to match your listing to offers. There is also a second, more hidden, way to buy books. You can go through Marketplace > For Sale > Books and browse through all the books that are offered in certain networks (currently 4757 books in the UM network). Here you can also do a text search for offerings, which allows you to search e.g. for the title of the book. UBook has the advantage that it is tightly integrated with the course text listings, so you do not need to open another page. It also has more ways to search for books right from the beginning (by title). Facebook has the advantage that it offers books for many networks and therefore can serve local as well as global communities, while UBook is limited to the University of Michigan. In UBook you can only search for books but you can’t create listings of books you would like to buy as in Facebook. Selling books The selling works very similar to the buying. You create listings of books you want to sell by putting in the ISBN numbers. Then you get to a second page where you 1 http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/08/23/facebook-integrates-book-swap-feature-into-marketplace/ can specify price and the condition, add comments and select the networks where the book shall be listed. Then your book can be found when other users search for it and it is displayed on your profile. Another way to push your book offer is to advertise your listing on specific sections within Facebook for money. UBook’s only (but very valuable) way to advertise book offers is that the get integrated into the course text listings. Both systems do not handle any financial transactions they just offer the platform to offer/find books and to establish contact to the potential buyer/seller. A difference might be that users trust a University ran website more then a commercial site like Facebook. Another difference is that UBook only allows selling books by there ISBN, while Facebook allows listing it without one. Usability In general, the Facebook Marketplace Book Exchange is highly usable. The simple design helped a lot with accomplishing the tasks of offering/searching books. The only usability issues I encountered, was that when you follow the “Buy books” link on the frontpage you don’t get to browse the book offers or search by anything but the ISBN number. If you don’t discover the other way (described above) you miss out on a lot of the applications functionality. Another thing that annoyed me was a bug that you had to click on “remove” twice before a book listing would actually disappear from the screen. It is hard to compare UBook in terms of usability, since it is only a prototype so far. But I believe that the ways to get to the book offers is going to be more straight forward then in Facebook. You can click on “Search in UBook for this” in the course text listings or search on the homepage where it says “Need a textbook?”, where you can also search by title. Aesthetics The Marketplace Book Exchange is made with the same accustomed design of the whole Facebook site. It seems very consistent and not at all distracting. A nice feature is that it displays thumbnails for nearly all the books offered. This is something that UBook is not offering. Other than that I would say that UBook has a nice, simple and non-distracting design as well. Amazon.com Textbooks Amazon.com is a popular online market place for trading various things. It has a huge textbook portion, where people can buy and sell books freely. The textbook part is linked from Amazon’s home page. Or simply, a user can enter a search term on the home page, and then choose “books” from a drop-down menu. Functionality Buying and Selling Amazon.com has powerful search functions. For buying a book, a person can search by book title, author, or ISBN. There is a picture showing where to find ISBN, and an easily accessible help function for ISBN. For selling, the easiest way is to enter a book’s ISBN, and you will be directed to the particular book. Or, one can search using title or author as a buyer. After identify the book, click on “sell yours here” will start the listing process. A person can also go to his seller’s account, and click “list single item”. UBook has similar functionality as Amazon. When a student needs a book, he can search by title, author, or ISBN. However, after finding a book, only book info can be viewed, but there is no way to sell your copy from that point, as what Amazon offers. When one wants to sell, he can locate the book by ISBN, and then list his copy. Amazon also has more attributes to a book, like “condition”. UBook doesn’t have this. However, there is one thing UBook supports while Amazon doesn’t, which is flexible pricing. On UBook, one can choose to have a firm price or not. But on Amazon, one can only set a fixed price. Other Features Amazon supports user comments about a book. The comments are usually good review of a book’s merit, and help a user to make decision. Generally, more book info is revealed on Amazon. Both systems support managing inventory, and a seller is allowed to change price after listing the book. A book stays live in Amazon for 90 days, while in UBook, it’s 30 days. Amazon will send email notification when a listing expires, and the seller can renew the listing. UBook also allows renewing, but we don’t know if there will be any notification when offers expire. In addition, in both Amazon and UBook, contacting seller is easy by composing an email. Financial Transaction There are two big differences. First is financial transaction. UBook is simply an advertising platform, thus no transaction is supported. When a person wants to buy a book, he should email the seller, and they will agree on meet face-to-face to complete the transaction. As UBook is mainly for UM students, this practice is possible. On the other hand, Amazon is international, and its customers are from all around the world. It has all functionalities related to shopping online, such as shopping cart and credit card transaction. Financial transaction is done online, and the seller and buyer usually don’t meet up with each other. Both reputation and recommendation systems are incorporated in Amazon, but UBook doesn’t have those. Book Arrangements The second difference is that, on UBook, one can search books by course list. Textbooks for a course are grouped under that course’s number. Textbook list is provided by the textbook tool, and fed into UBook. This is not the case on Amazon, where each book needs to be searched individually. Usability Search is the most important function for a book trading site. Both Amazon and UBook are clear on this. Search is on both starting pages, and is very easy to locate. Buying or selling a book is also straightforward. A new search can be started on a result page. On Amazon, the search tool bar is at the top of page. On UBook, it is at the upper right corner. At the first glance, the search tool on UBook is not as clear as that on Amazon, but it’s still relatively easy to be noticed. In both systems, inventory is well organized and managed; and new listing can be added from the inventory page easily. Below is the inventory page in Amazon. Amazon handles actual transaction, which adds some complexities. In general, the buying path is easy to follow. If a buyer wants to contact the seller, he can click on a seller’s name to go to the seller’s summary page, and then click “contact the seller”. On UBook, seller’s email address is shown with the book offer, so one can simply click on it to compose an email. Amazon arranges books by condition, UBook arranges books by course. Both arrangements make sense, and are accepted by users. By default, search results are displayed by price in ascending order. Aesthetic Amazon’s design is pretty simple and straight forward. Its interface is user friendly. Also, Amazon displays thumbnail for each book, which is nice. UBook’s pages are also simple and well designed. Users won’t get overwhelmed by either system. University of Michigan Marketplace The University of Michigan marketplace is the university community online marketplace for trading various things. There are various categories in which users can post and retrieve classifieds ads for buying or selling items such as automotive, books, computers, etc. For this assignment we will focus on the features available to buying-selling books. Users must have active umich.edu accounts to post items. Users must click into the books, movies & music category, and into the books subcategory to browse for books. Once in this subcategory users have the option of either enter information of book through the search tab or browse through the list of items. Functionality Buying and Selling When placing a new classified ad for a book, users enter five fields: category, title. price, url, and description. It does not take more than a couple of minutes to enter the required information. Users typically place the title of the book The University of Michigan marketplace has very limited search functionality. There is one search box where users can enter any keyword related to the book they are looking for. UBook has more powerful functionality then this online marketplace. When a student needs a book, he can search by title or ISBN. However, after finding a book, only book info can be viewed, but there is no way to sell your copy from that point, as what Amazon offers. When one wants to sell, he can locate the book by ISBN, and then list his copy. This is an online marketplace with basic functionality and very simple. The most problematic aspect I found is that there is not a super search tab that allows users to perform inter-category searching. Usability Since there are not many book items listed at a single time (35 at the time of the study), searching is not a big problem. However, if more books were to be posted, additional search capabilities will be required. On the list of results users can sort these by either date, price, or user. Aesthetic The online marketplace’s design is very standard. Navigator bars in the upper-left part of the screen. Items listed in the center-right part of the screen. Background colors are those of the wolverine team. Summary In summary we have seen that all the systems are generally quite similar. Especially if we take a look at the entrance page of the systems, all of them except for UM marketplace offer two ways into the system: Buy book or sell book. So using this same approach should be a good decision for UBook. The main criterias that has the ability to set UBook apart from the other systems is the endorsement by the University and its integration into course book listings. This should be kept in mind. In terms of scope UBook is obviously going to be a local system. The UM marketplace hasn’t achieved wide enough acceptance to be really useful for textbook buying and selling. It should be tried to learn from the mistakes this system has made. Possible problems here were that it was not well advertised and that selling books is a little to complicated. But the Facebook marketplace shows that a system on the local level can be successful and get a good number of book listings. Functionality that UBook could think about integrating would be the option to indicate the condition of the books and the integration of richer book data. This seemed to be good features of the successful Amazon and Facebook systems. From Amazon in comparison to Facebook we also learned the importance of search. UBook should try to not go the way that the ISBN number is the only available criteria to search for books.
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