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									            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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