Bitcoin for books; SFU embraces digital currency

Simon Fraser University embraces Bitcoin, accepts virtual currency for textbooks

By Geordon Omand and Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – Will that be debit or Bitcoin?

A British Columbia university has started accepting the digital currency Bitcoin at all of its bookstores, allowing customers to open their mobile wallets in what’s believed to be a first for post-secondary institutions in Canada.

Simon Fraser University has also installed automated Bitcoin vending machines on its campuses in Burnaby, Vancouver and Surrey.

“It is still a very new, techie kind of subject and it takes — I think, for the average person — a lot of time to be able to understand it and be comfortable using it,” said Michael Yeung, who founded the SFU Bitcoin Club that spearheaded the venture.

“The way we’ve integrated it at the bookstore, allowing you to quickly buy bitcoins under 10 seconds and spend it under 10 seconds, makes it a lot easier.”

Bitcoin is a virtual currency that is transferred online without the help or regulation of any central bank. Students can either load up their mobile wallets apps by exchanging Canadian cash at the new vending machines or pay with bitcoins they already have.

They’re able to buy everything sold at the store, ranging from textbooks to T-shirts and mugs.

The university broke new ground last year when it became Canada’s first post-secondary institution to accept Bitcoin donations.

But Simon Fraser won’t be amassing piles of the alternative currency — and that’s how it mitigates any risk.

As soon as the bookstore receives bitcoins, it’s channelled directly to a U.S. payment processor that exchanges it for Canadian dollars.

The global processor, called BitPay, is used by many major merchandisers including Microsoft, Expedia and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic as payment for space flights.

“People might say, this is not money,” said Yeung, a third-year student planning to major in business administration.

But studying the history of economics and bartering shows many currencies used in previous centuries originated out of community agreement, he said.

“They don’t have to use it if they don’t want to use it. But if they use it, it’s kind of like using gold coins or silver bullion.”

Mark McLaughlin, SFU’s executive director of ancillary services, said the school is providing a first-hand learning experience.

“It is our mission to challenge and engage students and provide them with learning opportunities not only inside the classroom but also outside,” he said in a news release.

Simon Fraser has one of the most active Bitcoin student clubs in the continent. Its members spent the past year encouraging the school to introduce the currency, and they conducted a series of tests before opening for business, said Yeung.

He likened the shift to the early days of the Internet.

“There were students on campuses around the world getting into it. It was not predictable where it was going to go,” he said.

“It may not necessarily mean that Bitcoin is the end all, be all of electronic money or the future of currency, but it is a step forward for exploration and learning.”

Follow @gwomand and @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

Just Posted

South Surrey church members ‘praying for accused mother… for the whole process’

Lisa Batstone’s second-degree murder trial continues this week in B.C. Supreme Court

City will ask Fraser Health to remove pay parking at SMH, Surrey councillor says

Surrey’s new council has already made parking free on neighbouring city streets

Health and Technology District breaks ground on new building

City Centre 3 is the third of eight planned buildings: Lark Group

Spawning salmon returning to North Delta’s Cougar Creek

It’s early in the season, but the streamkeepers are hopeful it could be a good year for returns

Surrey White Rock Ringette Association ‘excited’ about world championships coming to Lower Mainland

Ringette Canada says the sport has reached record registration numbers

Winter weather hits parts of Canada

As some parts of the country brace for cold, parts of B.C. remain warmer than 10 C

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Kelly Ellard’s boyfriend has statutory release revoked

Darwin Duane Dorozan had several parole infractions that found him ‘unmanageable’

New chair of Metro Vancouver board is Burnaby councillor

The 40-person board is made up of elected officials from 21 cities and one First Nation

Doctor’s note shouldn’t be required to prove you’re sick: poll

70% of Canadians oppose allowing employers to make you get a sick note

German-born B.C. man warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Saskatchewan college honours memory of Humboldt Broncos coach

Darcy Haugan wore jersey No. 22 when he was a star player with the Briercrest College Clippers

Most Read