MIT Bookstore Accepts Bitcoin Payments as Campus Interest Grows

Pete Rizzo
Sep 4, 2014 at 18:45 UTC
Updated Sep 25, 2014 at 15:39 UTC

MIT Bookstore

The MIT Coop bookstore, a retail store serving the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is now accepting bitcoin for T-shirts, textbooks, school supplies and more.

The news comes amid increasing interest in bitcoin at the university and ahead of a scheduled ‘airdrop’ of $500,000 in bitcoin to MIT undergraduates. The project, which will provide $100 to every MIT student, is scheduled to take place sometime later this fall.

The MIT Coop is already equipped with a bitcoin ATM, a development that Jerry Murphy, of the bookstore’s management firm, said made accepting bitcoin a natural decision.

Murphy told Boston Magazine:

“MIT has a reputation of being on the cutting edge of a lot of things, and the student body has an interest in bitcoin. All these factors came together and we said, ‘Let’s give it a shot and see if it makes sense’.”

Notably, the MIT Coop will accept bitcoin through a partnership with Georgia-based bitcoin payment processor BitPay.

First purchase confirmed

Speaking to CoinDesk, MIT Bitcoin Project organizer Dan Elitzer confirmed that he had completed what was likely the first bitcoin transaction at the MIT Coop, purchasing an MIT-branded hat with bitcoin.

Boston Magazine had earlier indicated that no transactions had been made as of the publication of its report.

While the bookstore’s initiative may be off to a slow start, those close to both the MIT Bitcoin Club, the university’s on-campus bitcoin interest group, and the MIT Bitcoin Project believe that spending will increase this fall following the airdrop.

Chris Yim, co-founder of Boston-based bitcoin ATM operator Liberty Teller and an MIT alumnus, told CoinDesk:

“I remember I probably spent several hundred dollars on books my first semester at MIT, so this will be a very nice way to spend bitcoin, very applicable. I think it’s going to be interesting to see the volume it drives through [our ATM].”

Bitcoin interest on the rise

The announcement also follows the completion of the MIT BitComp, a summer-long app development contest led by the MIT Bitcoin Project. Started in June, that competition ended earlier this week, with block chain-powered online identity startup Ethos winning the $5,000 grand prize.

The MIT BitComp was not the first bitcoin-specific event on campus, however.

This May, the university played host to the MIT Bitcoin Expo, a day-long conference that brought leaders in the bitcoin industry face-to-face with MIT students eager to learn more about the emerging technology and potential careers that may be available as the ecosystem develops.

Elitzer told CoinDesk that the excitement and energy around these projects is mounting, and that he hopes this momentum carries through to the airdrop this fall.

Elitzer said:

“We’re really excited to see how all these different groups around MIT are starting to get involved and excited about bitcoin. […] We’re currently waiting on our research proposal and hopefully be able to get the bitcoin in the hands of students and really take this thing to the next level.”

Images via IVY PHOTOS / Shutterstock.com and CambridgeUSA.org

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