Books by the week
The idea seemed so simple that Kati Radziwon could hardly believe no one had done it.
It was 2011, and one of her friends, a fellow mom of young kids, was lamenting that a parenting book she wanted to read was on a four-month waiting list at the local library — and she didn't want to buy it yet.
"I said, 'rent it,'" Radziwon recalls.
Sure that she could find a book rental service online, she started searching for one — but came up empty.
Since then, the Lake Oswego woman's entrepreneurial wheels have been turning. Already a business owner — having founded Bean and Sprout Photography in 2009 — she turned her attention to the book rental business, initially focusing on digital novels and journals, and launched iFlipd in 2013 with co-founder Kevin Merritt.
The business pivoted to textbook rental in 2015, allowing students to rent digital and print textbooks for $2-$35 a week, depending on each book's purchase price. The company currently has 40,000 students in its system, and Radziwon expects to double or triple that figure by this fall.
"We're used to Netflix, Spotify, Uber," Radziwon says. "We live in a 'rent and share' economy, not an 'own' economy. ... All we're doing is tapping into that behavior and that generation."
Using iFlipd's pay-as-you-go model, students can rent books for as many weeks as they need them. If they decide to "flip" a digital book back in the middle of a rental week, they'll receive points toward a free book rental. And the "flipd" book is made available to other digital users at a discount for the remainder of the rental period.
Some students rent a book for so many weeks that their rental fees add up to the book's price. At that point, it's theirs, Radziwon says. She says students who plan to keep their books often use iFlipd as a way to finance their textbook purchases from week to week, rather than having to fork over hundreds of dollars at the beginning of the term.
Radziwon says she's glad that her business has made learning more accessible to the students who have signed up from 1,600 U.S. cities and 45 countries around the world.
"We've had college students come up and literally hug us," she says. "There's nothing better than hearing somebody say 'this is amazing — this is exactly what we need.'"