After reviewing more than 400 written essays and videos submitted for the Being Green 2009 Textbook Scholarship, we and our friends at Beans for Books are pleased to announce the winners! First off, thanks to everyone who entered, we got some terrific submissions and we wish that we could award more prizes. We have more scholarships in the works as well as some awesome contests, including one having to do with our newly released iPhone app, iBookStore! You definitely want to stay in the loop, so if you haven’t already, friend on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so you’ll never miss the prizes and savings and info relevant to college students. Now to the winners, drum roll, please . . . Being Green 2009 Textbook Scholarship

Grand Prize for Outstanding Essay and a Textbook Scholarship in the Amount of $500: John K., pursuing his Master’s in Architecture at the University of Maryland

Three Runners-Up for Honorable Mention Essays and Textbook Scholarships in the Amount of $100 Each to:

–Shayla S., pursuing her Master’s in Law and Accounting at the University of New Mexico

–Julie H., pursuing her Master’s in Music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music

–Danielle M., pursuing her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Michigan

One Randomly Selected Winner of a Kindle DX: Josh H., pursuing his degree in Entrepreneurship & Small Business Management at Mt. Hood Community College

Congratulations to our winners and thanks to all who entered! We’ll soon be posting John’s winning essay on what Being Green means to him.

Back-to-school time is always fun around here. We pretty much work at a frenzied pace, doing absolutely anything and everything that we can to connect the most students and parents with the most money-saving books in all sorts of formats and editions. It’s long days and all hands on deck for this seasonal rollercoaster called college rush.

One of the fun parts of my job (and an increasingly large one as the subject of textbook costs gets more attention every fall) is interacting with the media, business contacts, and customers. Often it’s through these interactions and relationships that I learn how different types of users experience our website and the online textbook-buying process in general. These grassroots interactions, particularly during rush, are essential to understanding firsthand the user experience and using the information that allows us to constantly improve our service.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of conversing with Donna Gundle-Krieg, A National Education Examiner for located in Detroit, MI. In covering her education beat, Donna, who was familiar with our site and had recommended it in one of her prior articles, had come across our announcement about Price Tweetbacks. In the course of our conversation, Donna told me about her experiences with buying textbooks over the years. We spoke in particular about a frustration she had encountered this summer when buying textbooks for her daughter. And now that rush has settled down a bit, I wanted to share it with you as Donna is not alone in her frustration and she and I both want to pass on, to the benefit of others, what we learned and the outcome.

In short, Donna searched for a book online via the best method: she searched by ISBN. When the book arrived, she noticed that the book had the right title and author, but it was marked “Teacher’s Edition” and the ISBN was different than the one she ordered. This was not the book Donna and her daughter needed, but when they tried to return it to the seller from whom they purchased it, they were told by that seller that the book, while clearly not the correct ISBN, was identified as the teacher’s edition in the Seller Comments found when the user mouses over the Details box on our site. went to bat for Donna and made sure that the seller refunded her and that she and her daughter got the right book. But what happened? I mean, operating a search engine and price-comparison tool, don’t we tell students that using the ISBN is the best way to locate the books they need? Well, yes, and that’s absolutely true; it’s the golden info source of all data and identification in the book business! Unfortunately, some merchants assume that variations of a title (teachers’ editions, annotated editions, international books, etc.) are all the same and list them all under a primary ISBN. The seller will then add a brief note in the Seller Comments portion of the Details stating what is different.

Let me state clearly that at, we do not encourage or condone this practice. It makes things confusing for students and difficult for us, and it’s just plain misleading for everyone. Not cool. So we went into a huddle and thought up a solution for ISBN-driven searches where some sellers are working around the ISBN (Did I mention that this isn’t cool? Right.) So, we updated our filters to move all these types of potentially problematic books (the teachers’ editions, annotated editions, international books, etc.) into our International Editions category as we work on a better way to display the information. We also continually run quality-assurance checks on the merchants who appear in our search results in order to make sure that they comply with our policies and represent their products honestly.

And we rely on you, students and parents, to let us know when you encounter something that seems like it should be different or could be better. In the meantime — actually, always and with everything that concerns your money and how you spend it — we recommend that before making a purchase, you read the Details and Comments on each item. Isn’t getting what you want, what you need, and what you pay for worth taking that extra few seconds to make sure that everything gels? We think so.

Should you run into a snag and not get the book you ordered, take a moment to check your confirmation emails from the merchant to make sure that you placed your order correctly and that what shipped was a different item. If so, contact the merchant who fulfilled your order directly. In almost every case, the seller should take back the book with a full refund (and no restocking fee) if the error was theirs (i.e., they sell and ship you a book that is different from what you ordered and what they represented). If the individual seller is not cooperating to rectify the situation and you purchased the item via a larger website marketplace such as Amazon or Alibris, contact the website directly and explain what happened so that they can help you get what you need and make sure that the seller meets his/her responsibilities. And of course, if you’re like Donna and you run into a data issue or have a suggestion about how to curtail confusion on the website, please contact us.

Hey, watch what ├╝ber-geek extraordinaire Chris Pirillo has to say about buying textbooks and check out the full story on his site.

If you haven’t ordered your books yet, wait no longer as the cheap used books are the first to go! The longer you wait, the less you save. And hey, don’t forget to save your receipts from your textbook and supply purchases so you can get some money back come tax time!

Chris | Live Tech Support | Video Help | Add to iTunes

At, we don’t sell or buy textbooks; our business is that of providing the information and resources that students can use to make the best choices possible when it comes to saving money in their pursuits of higher education. We believe that students have options and that presented with all available information, they will make choices that are personally and globally responsible and savvy.

In this installment of the blog, we’re taking time out to make sure that you’re up to speed on the important and beneficial changes to the Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits portion of the 2009 and 2010 tax code. This information could mean up to $2,500 in tax credits for college students and their families. We urge you to do a few easy things to make sure that you are not only saving the most money now but getting the most money back come tax time.

  1. Visit to find out the full details of the American Opportunity Tax Credit. If your parents or anyone else is involved in paying for your education, share this information with them (and anyone else who could claim you as a dependent come tax time).
  2. Understand that textbook purchases now qualify as expenses under the program, but to get credit for them, you must save your receipts and keep a record of your qualified spending. The IRS has expanded the definition of qualified spending to include “expenditures for ‘course materials.’ For this purpose, the term ‘course materials’ means books, supplies, and equipment needed for a course of study whether or not the materials are purchased from the educational institution as a condition of enrollment or attendance.”
  3. If you haven’t already started buying your books, do so now (and file your receipts in an organized fashion). The sooner you do, the greater your chances of getting cheaper used books and first dibs on rentals. Yes, a credit come tax time is great, but savings now is imperative.

The tax-code changes are great news and we hope that you and your families will take advantage of this wonderful way in which the government is alleviating some of the high costs of furthering one’s education.


If you haven’t noticed (or you’re trying really hard not to), August is right around the corner, and with August comes the end of summer break and time to get into serious mode. With back-to-school on the horizon and the economy still in a rough patch, no one can afford to pass up the chance for some financial aid or a stimulus package. That said, and our friends at Beans for Books have teamed up for the Being Green Scholarship wherein we’re giving away a semester’s worth of textbooks as well as other textbook scholarships and a Kindle Digital Reader!

Now, you may have heard us mention all of this before. But, well, maybe that was when we kicked off the scholarship on Earth Day way back in April, and you thought, “Hey, I have plenty of time to enter, no hurry.” And then maybe you heard us mention it again but thought, “Cool, I really gotta get around to that, but I’m on summer break and I’ve got until the end of July to enter.” Right, makes sense, but now it is the end of July and there are just a few more days left to enter. So wait no longer lest you pass up this opportunity.

Applying for the Being Green Textbook Scholarship is low stress with a potential for high payoff. The bottom line is simple: Students have a chance to save some big green on textbooks by expressing (via essay or video) what being green means to them. The grand-prize winner will receive a semester’s worth of textbooks (up to $500) and three runners-up will each receive $100 worth of textbooks. One random entrant will win a Kindle Digital Reader. But as I said, time is running out and entries must be received by midnight PST on July 31, 2009 (yeah, that’s Friday, this Friday).

Winners will be selected by our friends at Beans for Books by 09/30/09 and notified by 10/15/09. All books for the winners will be acquired by Beans for Books and an emphasis will be placed on acquiring money-saving environmentally responsible used textbooks and eBooks whenever available. Entering is totally east and completely worth it. I mean, who couldn’t use some green to help pay for their books for an upcoming term? Exactly. So that said, enter now before it’s too late.

In the midst of summer (but mindful of the new fall term quickly approaching), the last thing we want is for anyone to be tethered to a computer and spending more time on indoor errands than outside enjoying the sun and friends and family. To help you get the info you need and keep you on the go and free to enjoy the weather and the good times, we’ve cranked out some technology to help you get real-time textbook price quotes on the fly.

In addition to our regular site-based search right here at, we’ve rolled out an iGoogle Gadget and Real-Time Price Tweetbacks. Check ’em out, load ’em up, and get acquainted so that you can get real-time price quotes without being shackled to a desk. And remember that the earlier you get your ISBN information and order your books, the more cash you’ll save and the more eco-friendly used books you’ll get. That said, make your price checks and orders quick, easy, and mobile by adding these two convenient apps:

For your laptop or smartphone with browser, add the iGoogle Gadget. Cool, now you’re always just a click away from the latest info on the best textbook deals.

For Tweeps who prefer information via text/SMS (standard carrier rates apply), you can set up Price Tweetbacks in a few easy steps:

  1. Follow CampusBooks on Twitter and send a text message to Twitter at 40404 w/the following: “Follow CampusBooks” (a one-time setup).
  2. Once confirmed and activated, send CampusBooks a direct message via the Web or text Twitter (40404) with the following: “D CampusBooks ISBN” (both ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 are supported).
  3. will respond with the lowest price and a link to purchase the book then and there.


In the latest installment of our Bookmark These blog series, we give a shout out to the wonderful resource that is GreenStudentU. Here’s the scoop:



The Deal in a Nutshell: GreenStudentU understands that the environment is the social cause of greatest importance to today’s college students. That’s why they’ve created a great-looking site that informs and educates students of all interest and knowledge levels. From dorm recycler to off-campus composter to young policy wonk championing change, GreenStudentU has something for you.

About: “Green Student University offers valuable green information and stays up to date with the latest green topics to teach college students about sustainable living practices and worldwide green events. College students are an important audience because the habits and world views that they establish today will provide them with the tools they need for their futures. By informing students of up-to-date ecological concerns and providing the advice they need to tackle these concerns, GreenStudentU will help advance the green movement for both current and future generations.”

What You’ll Find on the Site: A comprehensive green guide on a wide variety of environmental topics that include:

Why We Dig It: Being green is of tremendous importance to everyone at and we’re always on the lookout for cool sites that offer resources all wrapped up in a sweet user experience. GreenStudentU does just that. We learn something every time we visit the site because of the great updated content and we admire the look and feel in terms of the site’s form. And hey, it’s all in the name of a cause that we care about and are involved with. Speaking of, if you haven’t already done so, check out our Being Green Scholarship where you could win a semester’s worth of textbooks.

Bonus Bit o’ Cool: Need to take a break and switch gears from physics to something that uses your brain in a different way? Pop over to GreenStudentU and work your vocabulary muscles and help feed the hungry by making a rice donation for every correct answer. A nice diversion that keeps students sharp and helps feed those in need.


With the term and finals over and June here, we’ve officially moved into summer mode at And sure, we’re working, but we’re also making some time for fun and keeping it light during the off-season. There’s a ton on our radars right now, all sorts of stuff we’re digging and looking forward to as the summer progresses. Here’s a quick roundup of what our staff’s going to be up to, feel free to chime in with the doings that have you stoked.

Lena, Marketing Manager, Baltimore, MD:
1) Hiking with my new dog: I just adopted a pup from the SPCA and she’s a bundle of energy and crazy athletic. I can’t wait to get her out on the Appalachian Trail for some hikes (and to tucker her out).
2) The release of Public Enemies: Crime drama, 1930s period piece, spectacle sets and costumes, Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, enough said.
3) Lollapalooza 2009: I love Chicago and this year’s lineup is great. Lots of top big names as well as some of my favorite new and lesser-known bands. I’m really looking forward to The Beasties, Decemberists, Neko Case, TV on the Radio, Kaiser Chiefs, Animal Collective, Gomez, and Fleet Foxes.
4) My first full summer back in Baltimore: Oppressive heat and humidity, crab feasts and beer, snowballs not snow-cones, Orioles games at beautiful Camden Yards, working in my garden. All good — well, maybe not the heat and humidity, but still.
5) World Football Challenge: Not football-football, the football played in the rest of the world: soccer! The World Football Challenge consists of six exhibition games between some of the world’s biggest teams. I’ll be attending the AC Milan vs. Chelsea FC match in Baltimore and I’m freaking out with excitement!

Alex, Founder and Owner of, San Diego, CA:
1) I’m an east-coast guy who lives in California, and summer in CA means spectacular weather and the ocean warming up. I’ll take surfing in board-shorts over surfing in my wet-suit any day.
2) I love being outside, not just hitting the waves, but enjoying the sand in addition to the surf. There’s not much that beats relaxing and camping on the beach and winding down with friends and a bonfire.
3) One of my passions is world travel and learning about the people and places and customs that make this earth so diverse and beautiful. My big trip this summer involves going to Indonesia!
4) Laughter is essential to keeping life on track and matters in perspective. Even the worst of days can be made better with a little silliness, so needless to say, I am really looking forward to my man Sacha Baron Cohen in the Bruno movie.
5) For #5, I’m going out on a limb, but summer’s all about optimism, so here goes: I am really looking forward to the Padres winning a game. There, I said it, let’s hope it’s not a jinx.

Brandon, Programming Guru, Athens, GA:
1) We’ve recently moved into a new house and added a new baby to our family. I can’t wait for our friends and family to check out the new digs and meet our new guy.
2) In addition to hosting friends and family, I’ll be hitting the road and staying with friends and family at their places. The big family event this summer is my brother’s wedding, which should be great!
3) Even with work and the family and the new house, I am really keeping up with my running. I’ve already started planning a couple of half-marathons at the end of the summer as well as some fall races and the big Thanksgiving Day Atlanta Marathon. In order to be fit and make good time, I’ve set a goal of running at least 100 miles each month this summer in preparation.
4) We’re having a blast in the garden so far and feel like we’ve mastered the early stuff like peas, lettuce, and spinach. Now we’re focused on some equally good tomatoes, onions, peppers, carrots, and even corn throughout the rest of the summer.
5) This is a given because no American summer would be complete without lots of them: outdoor barbecues with lots of friends (adults and kids) in the backyard. Good times for everyone.

Jeff, VP Business Development, Milwaukee, WI (soon to be Chicago, IL):

1) We’re moving to Chicago, and while I can’t really say that I’m looking forward to the moving part itself, I am definitely looking forward to the settling in and enjoying the new house and the city.
2) It gets pretty hot in Chicago and I have two energetic young kids. I can’t wait for some time in the pool with them!
3) I have a lot of friends and family in Chicago and it’s where my wife grew up. It’s going to be great to be close to so many loved ones and enjoy getting together at the new house and getting back into all the city has to offer.
4) Did I mention the move and my two energetic little kids? Right. So let’s just say that sometimes the best way for me to relax is to do some work. I have some new ideas for, cool stuff that helps students save even more money, more thoughts on scholarships and free textbooks, and Lena and Alex and I are working hard to take to an even higher green standard. It’s exciting stuff and it’s all in the works and coming your way soon.
5) Amidst all of this activity and planning, I gotta be honest: I am really looking forward to getting in some sweet summer naps.

Yesterday I was chatting with my friend Zack, one of the co-founders of College Finance 101. This being buyback season, the conversation jumped to the topic of textbooks and the seemingly weird world of book-buyback.

During our chat, Zack told me that he’d finished an exam earlier in the day and when he went to sell back the main textbook used for the course, the campus bookstore wasn’t buying it. While this was a disappointment, the part that added insult to injury was that a friend of Zack’s who had taken the same class and used the same book, was able to sell hers (for a tidy sum of $75 no less) just a few days ago. When Zack mentioned this to the bookstore employee, Zack was told that a new edition of the textbook was expected soon and that his friend had been able to sell her book back because hers wasn’t considered an old edition at the time. What a difference a few days makes!

In addition to this story being all too true, it’s all too common. That said, let’s look at what’s at work here and why it often seems so confusing and frustrating. As we discussed in our most recent blog entry, “Selling Back Books: A Few Simple Rules,” the textbook market behaves as all markets do, namely with sensitivity to supply and demand. Those factors are in constant flux and subject to external forces (kinda like the news of the new edition that popped up in between the time that Zack went to sell his book back and got denied and the time when his friend sold hers for $75). It’s pretty hard to tell what really happened to Zack. Sure, new editions do crop up and render older editions obsolete or less valuable, but chances are also good that the bookstore maxed out on demand and didn’t need Zack’s copy. And honestly, the confusing reasons don’t much matter when Zack’s still left with a book he doesn’t need and his friend has cash instead.

So what do you need to know to improve your chances for being able to sell your books back and get the best prices for them? It’s crazy-simple actually: sell your books ASAP because the longer you wait, the greater the chances of demand being met and/or a new edition appearing, both of which will put the kibosh on your opportunity to turn books into bucks. Also remember that you have options beyond the campus bookstore; in fact, using the Selling Tools, there’s a whole marketplace at your fingertips, a marketplace with an entirely different supply-and-demand spectrum not to mention buyers who are willing to make due with an edition that’s not the very latest.

And hey, I almost forgot! While we’re talking about buyback, we want to hear more from you! Got a buyback tale to tell? A horror story? An awesome experience? Words of wisdom for your fellow students? Let us know and if we feature your story, we’ll throw a $25 gift card your way.


Buyback time has arrived and to help you get the most for your unwanted books, we’re taking a moment to loop you in on a few rules that will help you sell books quickly and for the best rates going. As buyback is time sensitive, let’s keep this short and to the point.

Sell your books as early as possible, preferably before everyone else in your class does. Why? Simple supply and demand. If 75 copies of a book are needed for next term, and you’re the 76th person to try to sell that book back, you’ll get much less (if anything) because demand has already been reached and there’s no need for any more supply. It pays to hustle.

Just as many students buy their books from sources other than the bookstore, so do many students sell their books elsewhere. In fact, there’s an entire virtual marketplace at your fingertips using the Buyback Comparison Tool. For each ISBN you enter, you’ll see a list of buyers currently seeking your book, how much they’re willing to pay, and the terms of the sale. If you can’t find demand for your book there, try selling it on a site like Facebook or Craig’s List. This takes a little more effort and patience, but in doing it, you might be able to keep the deal local and bypass any packing and shipping. It’s also a win-win opportunity for both buyer and seller because there’s no middleman taking a cut.

Say you’ve entered an ISBN into the Buyback Comparison Tool. There’s a buyer who’ll pay $26 for it, but you think you should get at least $32 for the book. Know that if you hold out, you could lose the chance to sell it entirely, plus the longer you wait, the longer you go without the sure cash in hand. Is losing that chance (and not having cash now) really worth $6? Know your thresholds in advance but also be flexible. Don’t blow a deal over small change. And keep in mind RULE #1, which says that the longer you hold, the less you’ll get.

The reality is that no matter how in demand and how good of condition your book is in, the buyback value is never going to be more than half of the price that the book sold for as brand new. That said, a book with a shelf price of $100 is going to max out — best-case scenario — for a buyback of $50. Max. Now this isn’t too shabby by any means, and it’s actually pretty sweet if you happened to buy the book used for $75, but remember that the half-rule by no means applies to every book. So when we say keep it real, we’re talking about your expectations and not freaking out when that same book that cost $100 at the beginning of the term fetches a value of $20 (or maybe even less given the demand) at buyback. Also remember that when you agree to sell your book, it’s on you to make that happen per your agreement with the buyer, so don’t forget to factor in shipping costs and a trip to the post office.