Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students can now purchase textbooks, clothing and school supplies at the MIT bookstore, the MIT Coop, BitPay announced Thursday. In doing so, the bookstore – which was founded as a cooperative in 1882 – becomes the first of its kind in the nation to accept the cryptocurrency.
“The MIT COOP is the first campus-based business to respond to this student-led adoption, continuing its reputation as a cooperative by students and for students,” said Jerry Murphy, COOP President. It should be noted that the bookstore is not actually run by the school.
Their decision is symbolic of the Coop’s commitment to service a “student culture of leaders and thinkers,” claiming that bitcoin’s elimination of credit card transaction fees helps the store pass on savings to students.
“Students are the next generation technology leaders and we expect them to be at the forefront of new technology adoption like bitcoin,” said Tony Gallippi, BitPay’s Co-founder and Executive Chairman. “As MIT and The COOP are two of America’s most historic examples of innovation, the adoption of bitcoin continues this tradition.”
Murphy told BostonMagazine, “Part of our decision to do this was based on the fact that we have had a Bitcoin exchange in our store for six months now. 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.”
As Murphy mentioned, the decision to accept bitcoin isn’t completely out of left field; the store already contains a bitcoin ATM, and there are big plans in the works to gift all 4,000 plus MIT students with $100 in bitcoin later in the fall semester, many of who will likely spend their newly acquired coins at the Coop bookstore.
The giveaway is called the MIT Bitcoin Project, and it’s being organized by Dan Elitzer, who also says he made what was likely the first bitcoin purchase at the Coop, buying a hat branded with the MIT logo.
Elitzer, along with Jeremy Rubin, raised $500,000 in bitcoin for their project, which will distribute $100 in bitcoin to every undergrad this fall. Their goal is to create a digital currency ecosystem at MIT.
The duo have already reportedly prepared activities, and are planning to work with professors and researchers in an effort to study how MIT students use their bitcoins once they ‘opt in’, says CoinDesk.
“Giving students access to cryptocurrencies is analogous to providing them with internet access at the dawn of the Internet era,” Rubin told CoinDesk.
With this announcement from the MIT Coop bookstore, along with the upcoming MIT bitcoin giveaway, MIT will – at least for a few months – exist as the largest bitcoin community, and it will certainly serve as an interesting test case for how a highly concentrated bitcoin ecosystem could function.
Perhaps an even more interesting bitcoin community test case will be the upcoming “Let the Bit Drop” experiment, in which every citizen of the island nation of Dominica who has SMS text messaging will receive an unspecified amount of bitcoin. The Bit Drop is taking place on March 14, which is also Pi Day.