Textbook price comparison website creates textbook plush toys
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
In a world where post-secondary textbooks are exceedingly expensive, SlugBooks, a textbook price comparison website, strives to help students make informed textbook purchases. The company began at the University of California Santa Cruz, where it was named after the university’s banana slug mascot.
SlugBooks also features original comics and animated videos on their website, including textbook mascots. The mascots are cartoon characters in the shape of textbooks with faces, arms, and legs that wear and/or hold items that represent each of their specific academic subjects.
“Several years ago, we started an initiative to create original comics for our Facebook page at the same time that we were redesigning the site. Photoshop windows got mixed up and we ended up with a textbook cartoon on our homepage, and the concept stuck,” said David Miller, CEO of SlugBooks.
SlugBooks has designed 14 textbook mascots that cover a variety of academic subjects, which appear together at the bottom of the SlugBooks homepage.
“We’ve found it effective to use the characters on the site to disarm so many of the negative feelings students have towards their books,” Miller said.
However, some mascots do better than others on the website.
“If users who see a character leave more often than the proven set, we’ll either remove that design completely or rework it,” Miller said. “One example of this is Marine Biology, which used to be a textbook designed as a mermaid. It didn’t perform well for whatever reason. Now it is a textbook in a scuba suit.”
SlugBooks transformed their characters from 2-D drawings to 3-D plush toys for their Kickstarter campaign called “#EndBookHate with Plush Textbook Toys.” The campaign’s objective was to help students appreciate textbooks by creating cute, cuddly plush versions of the mascots.
“Merging books with something that resembles a teddy bear has really resonated with our fans,” Miller said.
The campaign offered a variety of rewards for project backers, from bumper stickers and book covers to custom textbook plush toys of the backer’s choice. The most popular rewards were the three textbook plush toys: Chemistry (a blue textbook in a lab coat and safety goggles holding a beaker and a test tube, both filled with colourful chemicals), Film (a tan textbook with 3-D glasses, popcorn, and soda), and Psychology (a cream textbook with a grey beard, glasses, suit, notepad, and pencil). Each of the three plush toys was available individually for a US$30 donation, or backers could donate $80 for all three plush toys.
“The Chemistry toy was the most popular Kickstarter reward,” Miller said. “This was the original cartoon that was designed and among the most popular, so it made sense that its plush form also performed well.”
The Kickstarter campaign closed on September 25, having successfully raised $11,115 from 211 backers, surpassing their $10,000 funding goal.
“Perhaps the biggest surprise has been the number of inquiries we received after the campaign closed,” Miller said. “Librarians love these.”
For those who missed backing the campaign but would like to purchase the textbook plush toys, SlugBooks is in the process of setting up a website, EndBookHate.com, where fans can pre-order them.
SlugBooks is also planning to introduce other textbook plush toys to the line, particularly in the sciences.
Although the textbook plush toys have gained a following of their own, they are only part of SlugBooks’ mission to help students find less expensive books.
“Always compare prices. Textbooks are more affordable right now than they ever will be, and comparing is free. You never know when a $200 book will only be $5 online,” Miller said.
For more information, check out SlugBooks.com