Belltower Books, a company that buys used textbooks from college students, created a stir on Bowdoin's campus at the end of the fall semester.

According to the company's Web site, Belltower was founded by two students at Cornell University "to give fellow students a way to sell all of their textbooks conveniently."

Belltower hires college students to advertise the company as an alternative to college buyback programs. In return, each student employee receives six percent of the total books sold back to Belltower.

Each school has a campus captain who briefs other Belltower employees on the company's mission and distributes scanners.

According to Josh Roer '11, one of Belltower's Bowdoin employees, the scanners are programmed by analysts at the company's headquarters in Ithaca, NY, who have researched the market value of textbooks.

After scanning the books, employees give students a quote of how much they will receive for their books. Students willing to go through with the transaction receive cash for their books.

In December, Roer, along with Belltower employee Michael Power '11, went door-to-door in residence halls across campus before the end of the semester to buy books from students.

According to Roer, Belltower's biggest pull is convenience.

"It saves them from going to the bookstore with a huge bag of books, and we give them straight cash right there," he said.

Despite the convenience of buyers going door-to-door, Andrea Koenigsberg '13 regretted her decision to sell her textbooks to Belltower.

Koenigsberg said that the employee who came to her dorm "was vague as to what Belltower Books was."

"I was under the impression that it was associated with the College itself and it was part of the official textbook buyback" Koenigsberg said. "Therefore, when he quoted my books I thought it was my only option for selling books back."

According to Roer, Belltower employees are instructed to explain that they are not affiliated with the College.

"We told people 'we are not employed by the Textbook Center' and asked if they were okay with the prices," he said.

Koenigsberg said that she "felt ripped off" by the prices Belltower offered.

"I know that I sold one of my textbooks for $14 and I could have definitely received at least twice that amount from the textbook center," she said.

Roer said that Belltower was not necessarily more lucrative for students.

"We just give a convenient option," said Roer. "The trade-off is that we go to them. It's a worthwhile trade-off. Instead of going to the bookstore and going through the hassle, we go to [students]."

According to Roer, there were instances in which Belltower did offer better prices than the Textbook Center.

"There was book for a class that the Textbook Center was giving $30 dollars for and we were giving $80," he said.

Generally, Roer said, students will "get more money for bigger textbooks" through Belltower than at Bowdoin's Textbook Center. Roer said he believes that for older editions of smaller books, however, particularly specific editions requested by Bowdoin professors, students get more money at the College's Textbook Center.

The Textbook Center Web site explains how it determines prices. The Textbook Center will pay 50 percent "of the new price if the book is being used on campus next semester and the Bookstore has received the order from the professor."

The Textbook Center offers 10 to 30 percent "if the book is not being used on campus next semester" which "is based on national demand, as these books are purchased by a national used book wholesaler and not by the Bowdoin Bookstore."

The Textbook Center offers students no money "if the book is going to a new edition or is a rather eclectic title with no national resale value."

Students were not the only members of the Bowdoin community who were upset with the way Belltower worked on campus. Professors, too, lodged complaints against the company.

Roer and Power sent e-mails to the students in specific courses to advertise for Belltower and they both received angry responses from members of the faculty.

"Many just said it was inappropriate. One professor said I was 'phishing,' which is some word for internet scamming," said Roer.

Another professor referred Roer to Assistant Dean of Students Eric Morin.

Morin, said Roer, "understood both sides and suggested I just don't use official class lists, which I understood as a fair compromise."

According to Morin, "when something like this happens it is without the student's knowledge that they are doing anything wrong. The policy is actually the Information Technology Use Policy."

The policy, which can be found in Section 3.1 of the Student Handbook states that students may not "use College IT resources for any commercial purpose unrelated to official College business."

Bowdoin's Information Technology Web site also states that "the College's electronic communication facilities should not be used to transmit commercial or personal advertisements, solicitations or promotions."

Despite the trouble Belltower may have caused, the company was successful on campus.

"We sold $8000 worth of books," said Roer, an indication that while Belltower books irked some, others utilized the service.