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Weighing In On Backpacks

17 Feb

In an attempt to get my sleep schedule back on track for my 8am classes this semester, I found myself rising out of bed with the rest of my family during the last few days of winter break (as opposed to the Utopic winter-break noon sleep-ins). As I sat eating my Fruit Loops at the kitchen table, I watched my younger brother perform his usual morning routine of getting ready for school. After his hair was combed, teeth were brushed, and new fresh kicks he received for Christmas were slipped onto his feet, I observed my mother strap what seemed to be a full sized suitcase onto the little guy’s back. While I watched him walk out the door, hunched over like Quasimodo and struggling to carry a backpack that weighed more than he did, I began to recall all of the not so fond “heavy backpack” memories from my childhood.

Countless times have I been in the same position as he, walking on to the crowded school bus with what felt like bricks on my shoulder, hoping with all of my heart and soul for an empty seat. Eventually I’d find a classmate with an equally large backpack on the seat next to them. Never without the typical look of aggravation on their face, my comrade would pick up the monstrosity and plop it down on their lap.

The truth is, the burden of overloaded backpacks has not only tormented us as young children, but followed us into our college years as well. Time after time we find ourselves filling every last square inch of our bag so as to “prepare for class” with textbooks that we most likely won’t even open once the entire period. Either that or we decide our workout clothes are more important to cram in there than our 1300 page Biology book. This of course generates the inevitable panic when our professor announces the in-class assignment on pg 632.

I meditated upon this age-old dilemma while finishing up the rest of the milk in my cereal bowl. Fully replenished, I asked myself the obvious question: why do we continue to fall victim to the pain and misery brought forth by these backpacks? With roughly 20,000 backpack-related injuries occurring each year, this problem is obviously not going away. If we as a society have been intelligent enough to dub cigarettes as “Cancer Sticks”, then why haven’t these “Hernia Bags” received the same sort of criticism?

In recent history, available solutions were limited to groundbreaking inventions such as the infamous “backpack on wheels” (Frankly, the loss of street cred after using one of these was often more unattractive than a few back surgeries). Fast forward to 2013, however, and I see the solution sitting right in front of me: little bro’s iPad Mini laying on the kitchen counter. With one, nearly weightless device, every textbook ever needed could be stored and accessed with a simple tap on a screen.

Now I’m not saying that I believe we should be handing out iPads to every first grader in a classroom. However, with affordable eReaders available (Amazon’s Kindle now priced at only $69), why can’t we get these in the hands of our youth and spare them all of those future trips to Chiropractors? Certainly we owe it to them.

Taylor Gimino

Packback Marketing Specialist


Student Ed-Tech Startup Hosts Textbook Affordability Rally on Campus

17 Feb
  1. Every day for the past two weeks, we’ve been monitoring THOUSANDS of tweets like this.
  2. Damn college books will take all yo money… And watch we don’t even use…smh
  3. I don’t want to spend money on textbooks i’ll never use. #ugh
  4. #College books are expensive. Seriously, $200 for a book I will never use? #SchoolSucks
  5. Buying college textbooks does not only hurt my wallet but hurt my feelings…
  6. So we decided to do something about it on campus.

  7. Who:  3 cofounders, 1 designer, 4 marketing specialists, and an entire business fraternity standing behind them.

    Mission:  Collect $1,000,000 in textbook receipts over two weeks from students wanting to take action and host a campus rally event on the quad to gain attention.
    Results:  $50,000 collected at Illinois State University in just two hours, and $120,000 raised in the first 3 days.

    The Setup:

  8. 4,000 handbills, 400 fliers, one massive poster, 3 pillows, paper bags, some clothes from the thrift store, and a monkey suit.
  9. Spreading word of mouth on campus takes a little creativity.  Here’s what we decided to make.
  10. Trying to dress a pillow is harder than you’d think! #takingbacktextbooks
  11. Arts and crafts on a sunday afternoon. #takingbacktextbooks
  12. Three displaced creations around the ISU quad.  Dozens of students stopped regularly to take pictures on their way to classes.
  13. The event:

  14. Students stopped by to grab pictures with Taylor from Packback sporting his monkey suit.  “Textbook prices are driving me bananas”.
  15. TV-10, The Daily Vidette, and WZND all featured us in support.  Stories will be up and running on campus on Wednesday.
  16. We talked to hundreds of students on campus. We didn’t need to prompt much discussion to get students ranting on high textbook prices.

    “Hey there, how much did you spend on textbooks this semester?”
  17. Here’s some of the reactions!  Follow the movement at #takingbacktextbooks.
  18. Just spent $182 to RENT three USED textbooks. ¿Qué pasa with that? @packbackbooks
  19. Love hearing kids talk about Packback while walking to class!! Good job guys! @packbackbooks
  20. #ilstu student tech startup hosts a rally on the quad for affordable textbooks! follow @packbackbooks
  21. The average student spends $500 a semester on textbooks.  63% of students surveyed at Illinois State University reported they rarely used (1-3 times) at least one of their books last semester. 

    Packback is a patented method of e-book distribution, allowing students to pay-per-use and realize the full value of their purchases through 24 hour rentals.  Follow our student-run startup and help us bring a new model of affordable books to life.

Meet the Packback Team!

29 Dec
ISU Mag cover

Packback featured as the cover story for Illinois State University’s Winter Magazine

Rome wasn’t built in a day and game-changing businesses don’t sprout up overnight. Challenges had to be overcome before realizing the disruption of movie rentals (Redbox), fragmentation of music distribution (iTunes), and micro-purchasing of cars (ZipCar). But what did happen in each scenario was the recognition that consumers demanded to pay for what they actually use. And in each case, one day came along in which somebody decided to do something about it. For our team at Packback, that one day came just over a year ago as industrious college students.

Of course, an idea is essentially nothing without effective execution. Fortunately, we feel confident in our team’s ability to do just that.


In addition to our core founders, Packback is the newest partner company to Dashfire. Dashfire partners with high-impact entrepreneurs to launch tech startups through software development and strategic alignment.  Located in the Chicago entrepreneurship hub of 1871, Dashfire brings a wealth of entrepreneurial expertise and a standout cast of advisors to Packback. Combine the Dashfire tech-expertise with the brilliant creativity of our superstar designer, Jessica Tenuta, and the result is a truly awesome user-experience to come!

Jessica Tenuta- Chief Designer

Jessica Tenuta- Chief Designer

Our most recent addition has been a rock-star team of marketing interns. Taylor, Kim, Kelsey, and Brett have a tight grip on the aches and pains (both physical and financial) of our college market and a passion for wreaking progressive havoc on outdated industries (well, they do now at least). Utilizing their hustle and innovative thoughts, we’ll make sure that every student has the opportunity to take part in the Packback movement!

Intern Team

Packback marketing team having fun brainstorming!

2012 Trends in Digital Learning and e-Textbooks [infographic]

22 Dec

A new infographic sheds some light on the biggest trends we’re seeing in the world of digital learning and e-textbooks

Are Textbooks Cooler than N64?

29 Nov

Picture this: Christmas morning, snowflakes fluttering down from the window’s view on a perfect winter’s day. Parents wait downstairs, video-camera in hand, as the children are finally allowed to mad dash towards the tree. It’s a brilliant scene:  gorgeously wrapped presents stacked underneath the beautiful evergreen tree, boasting unknown treasures within. Eyes wide, little Johnie boy reaches with one wishful fist for his first present, and it’s a big one. Suspense peaks as he tenaciously rips paper from package. Then it happens; for a split second, the world comes to a standstill. Eyes now bulging, little Johnie lets out a roar: “Taxation of Business Entities Seventh Edition!!!!! OH MY GOSH!!!” Little sister Susie pumps her fist victoriously as they both belt out praises to the powers that be. “Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you Santa!!” It must have been Santa, mom and dad would never cough up the $288.88 cost on a single item. Fortunately, the fat man came up big this year. Best. Day. Ever.

…Wait a minute, no, something isn’t right. This scene is suppose to paint the picture of an almighty Nintendo 64 being gloriously introduced into Johnie’s world. Well, fast forward a few years and that same little boy is now shipping off to college.

What’s awaiting him? Fun times, lessons learned, and money LOST.

The original list price for a Nintendo 64 was $250.00, $38.88 less than his soon to be purchased Accounting textbook. At this point you’re probably sharing my sentiment: “the book costs more than Nintendo 64?! Wow, that product must be insanely mind-blowing”.

Now let’s review the logic at hand. Clearly the high price tag for Nintendo 64 was warranted by its sheer awesomeness and driven by an overflowing demand –demonstrated by overnight lines which morphed into retail store parking lot campouts. So there must be a similar demand for the accounting book, right? Strange because on a quick glance, there’s no long lines outside the bookstore.  Awesomeness of the product? Ehh, no comment. Wait wait wait, here’s the issue. FIVE YEARS after little Johnie’s Christmas morning ecstasy, the next-gen consoles (PS2 /Xbox/GameCube) were released, essentially rendering N64 obsolete (as if!). With that in mind, “Longevity” must be the additional value boasted by Taxation of Business Entities Seventh Edition. Wait, nope, the ultra-hyped eighth edition comes out next year, bumping this one along to join its peers in the infinite graveyard of dead trees. So why on earth are these cunning college kids spending the equivalent of Nintendo 64 funds on one measly textbook?  We asked around campus and generally received one answer: “My teacher told me to buy it”.

So I decided to ask the unfathomable follow-up question: “What if the teacher hadn’t?  What would you do with the (low end) $500/semester if it weren’t squandered in textbook expenses?” The results were notably mind-blowing. I’ve narrowed down our top three.

The first solution was a fairly common notion: “Save for spring break!” Apparently the ultimate dream for many college students is the ability to afford a fully-loaded spring break vacation. Seriously? College kids would rather preserve the opportunity to hang beach-side with their pals than haul around a backpack full of books? Sounds like a peculiar sentiment, but it’s not my job to judge.

This second guy appeared to have grown up with the same hopes and dreams as little Nintendo Johnie. “Xbox games for days” was his immediate reaction. Ok buddy, go ahead and play your Xbox games (for days). When I inquired as to what extent he would prefer to utilize these purchased video games, he gave me a sort of funny look. “Until I beat them, obviously”. As if it would be illogical to receive less than full value on a conscience purchase. Hmm, college kids these days can be so demanding.

And then there was the last girl, an unexpectedly selfish little damsel. This little miss thing had the nerve to claim that $30 per week in savings would cover her grocery expenses. College kids sure do say the darndest things. As if it were important to budget in food expenses for daily living. Boasting an ever-inquisitive mind, I asked her how frequently she would actually be eating said “food”. Her response: “every day”. Ok, fine, I was clearly dealing with an addict and decided to rest the case.

Ridiculous as their demands may be, college students have spoken and it appears there may be other things available to purchase with that textbook money. As members of this generation of students, swamped in over $1 trillion national student debt (more than the national credit card debt – that’s a LOT of N64s!) and faced with a textbook market characterized by prices rising at a rate of four times inflation the past fifteen years, we understand entirely. So allow me to introduce us: we’re Packback, students building the business we need to better this troubled industry and enhance affordability in education.

@packbackbooks on Twitter