The first impression one receives of Nicolas Shelton, the creator of BookRenew.com is that of inherent activity. Even at rest, sitting at the computer desk of the Salt Lake Community College office where he works for thirty hours a week, he’s doing multiple things at once.
First there are the two computers he has open, a dual flicker of screens revealing lines of code on one and a webpage on the other. Every few minutes he will tweak the first, then check the second as a miniscule alteration is made. Meanwhile a novel sits on the desk, his backpack heavily placed behind him. The book is, “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger and the book bag an indication of the 15 credits Shelton is taking this semester.
But the man himself is cool as a cucumber. “I’m busy nonstop, all the time. I still have spare time. Not much of it, but it’s still there.”
He laughs as he says it, eyes flickering intelligently between the conversation and his computer coding. But those he speaks with never feel left out or ignored; it’s clear where his focus is, and that focus is the topic of conversation and what he’s working on as current sole programmer at SLCC.
BookRenew.com is a brainchild of sorts, brought on by seeing a need and filling it.
“I was tired of paying for books,” he explained. “I came up with BookRenew.com in August of last year, and started working on it in September.”
Shelton had already had some experience with website design, doing freelance work before he was struck by this inspiration. While the site he initially created later turned out to be unnecessary, the experience itself was what familiarized him with the language of web design.
But it was all learned with a specific purpose in mind: to improve an area of life that needed to be better.
BookRenew.com is “Selling Made Simple,” as the website’s heading states. It is a place where individuals exchange data in order to buy and sell books to one another directly. But more than that, it’s a comparison shop, providing data from a variety of locations such as Amazon.com and googlebooks.com in order to know exactly what your book is worth and how much to charge for it.
Similarly, two other handy applications are under the book listing options and the use of the My Books section of the site which allow you, in the case of the former, to price a book based on the condition or the overall wear. The second lets you upload all the data from books previously purchased so that they can be sold again, essentially making selling your textbooks an easy, almost fun process while you, “cut out the middle man,” BookRenew.com states.
But the biggest draw is that there’s an emphasis on protecting members’ personal information in a rather frightening world wide web.
“Think of this like a classified system, but it’s not,” said Shelton. “If you go to ksl.com and you jump on there, you’re looking through all these listings and you can see everyone’s personal information, their phone number, the city they live in. All this information is out there. Well, site scrappers, which are websites that just rip all of that information off, can create databases of phonebooks or whatever they want with that personal information and I feel that’s wrong.”
Shelton is passionate as he makes his point, then moves on smoothly to explain his answer to the problem.
“So on my site, if you want to purchase a book you have to find a listing and it’ll show me everybody who has it. It (the site) figures out that there’s this book, here’s the condition, I know that it’s in Taylorsville, Utah, it’s five miles away from where I’m at. If I hit ‘agree and buy,’ then it sends the customer’s information to my cell phone. It also pops up on screen as well, their email address and phone number. So then I contact the user from there.”
But all the selling is done on an individual and very private basis.
“We have nothing to do with the sales. We’re just allowing two people to meet up. You don’t need their address. And if you don’t want your phone number in there, you can tell them not to put your phone number. If you don’t want the email in there, you don’t have to use the email. We’ve built a custom email as well.”
As for the site itself, it is easy to use, interactive and personable even, in a reflection of its creator. As new users set up an account it is a pleasant experience, particularly with the knowledge that just by signing up for the website and confirming their new account, students are entered into a drawing where they have the chance to win an iPad2.
The next happy surprise exists in the signup itself, as the site shows you step by step how to start, leaving one feeling like they’ve just been introduced to a new person.
In a way, you are, as the text and concept of BookRenew.com are a reflection of its author. It is innovative, it’s creative, and it’s something that’s constantly changing for the better.
“Websites are cool and all, and I love the idea of the web, but it’s not done yet. The fact is that everyone has a cell phone in their pocket but internet is not everywhere. So I’m working on different applications and different ideas where you’ll be able to text in if you have an account…You don’t have to be at a computer. If a book is purchased on the site, it texts you. So you don’t have to check your email or anything else,” Shelton said.
BookRenew.com is a definite mix of both the future and the present, with more surprises to come.
“All that I do is think about ideas, all day long. My notebook is seriously full of lists of things that I want to build,” Shelton said.
To check out the site, visit www.BookRenew.com, Also, to contact Shelton with any questions, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Right now SLCC is the only school to be connected to BookRenew.com, but show your support by visiting and help expand it to other universities.