Reduce, Reuse, Recycle . . . Renew and Rejuvenate for Spring!

After a long winter filled with some of the harshest weather we’ve seen in a long time, spring is nearly here! Every time we see a patch of green or hear a bird chirping nearby, things feel a little easier and like we’re about to turn the corner and enjoy warmer weather, sun, and longer days. And what could be more spring-like than being mindful of a green lifestyle? Exactly, that’s why we’re presenting our segue to spring, complete with green links we love (and hope you will too), in this installment of the blog.

Indispensable Green Website: GreenStudentU is an awesome site that really has it all, everything from living greener on campus and to making a difference as a global citizen. And it’s all geared to college students, the very people who are at the heart of positive environmental change. Love it.

Indispensable Green Website: Red, Green, and Blue is cool because it’s all about strength through unity and putting aside political differences and ideologies to discuss and debate environmental issues. And when the discussion gets a little heavy or you’re feeling like you need a laugh with your thinking, visit the Cartoons section for some editorial funnies.

Indispensable Green Website: GlobalStewards is a no-nonsense site that for more than a decade has been providing tips for living a sustainable lifestyle. There’s a terrific amount of useful information here on everything from personal finance to gardening to eco-travel. Their Eco-Tips page is a must-bookmark for sure.

Hot Links for Green School Supplies: Inhabit’s Eco-Friendly School Supplies piece presents some super-sharp environmentally righteous gear for school. And because Inhabit is a design site with an eye for the green, you know this is some good-looking and highly functional stuff as well as eco-savvy. If you’d like more suggestions for eco-friendly school supplies, check out this list from Real Simple and this one from TheDailyGreen.

Green Gifts for Moms, Dads, and Grads: We all know about the winter holiday season in December, but there’s also one in spring. With Mother’s Day, Graduation, and Father’s Day close at hand, why not go green and shop early so you can stress less come finals time? For the greenies on your spring gift list, has an expansive selection of eco-friendly gifts, including some really creative stuff made from objects that would have otherwise been wasted.

And a final word about keeping it green this spring: remember that used textbooks are at the heart of keeping prices down and deforestation to a minimum. Do your green part and when you’re done with your textbooks, sell them back so that another student can save and another tree can stand tall.

Have a happy and healthy and successful spring!

So much of what we read about the current job market is doom and gloom, but that’s not the case across the board. Some industries and some companies are growing, and is one of them. Right now we’re looking for a Senior PHP Developer to join our team.

Sure, you probably got to know us when you were a student looking to save money on textbooks or find the best deals for buyback, and we certainly hope that we were able to help you do these things. And now’s your chance to come work for us and become someone who helps pass on the best deals to other students. is a fun company staffed by a great group of folks committed to coming up with cool solutions (like our on-the-go apps) to help college students and book lovers buy and sell books for the best prices. We also run an eco-friendly virtual office environment, which means that the new hire would work from his/her home office and not need to relocate. Interested candidates should check out the full job description.

So today was the big day, the day that techies, Apple fans, and book people alike were all waiting for: the big announcement of what had been well leaked as the “Apple tablet” amidst all sorts of rumors of features, price points, and even names. And we did indeed get confirmations and negations (yes, it’s a touch-screen tablet, it’s called iPad, prices start at $499 and go up to $829 with additional storage and connectivity). Now let’s look at what else we know, as well as what we’d like to know, what the iPad means for college students (um, it looks like an awesome gaming and media device, you know, for when you’re not studying), and of course, how it affects buying and reading textbooks.

The biggie is that the OS is going to be very familiar to iPhone and iPod Touch users. Same sort of interface there in terms of touch, icons, the App Store, accelerometer, “sensing” portrait/landscape orientation, etc. Cool, because that’s a great interface that has been a real game-changer. Besides, we have an app for it :) And this OS combined with the absence of any sort of optical drive reinforces that all software and media will be sold and downloaded through . . . the iTunes Store, which is of course, the parent to the App Store.

Which brings us to a new app and store: iBooks. It’s a combo reader/store and free download (well, it will be a free download; it’s not available as of this post and there’s no date for delivery though the iPad device itself is slated for late March and early April). Unlike the black-and-white Kindle, the iPad utilizes a high-resolution LED-backlit screen that displays everything in sharp color. This is big; in fact, when we reviewed the Kindle and discussed whether or not it was right for textbooks, the absence of a full-color display was a deal-breaker for us.

We also know that iBooks will feature content from Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette Book Group. How much content and whether or not that content will be academic textbooks or just more mainstream titles is unknown, as is the role that other publishers will play in title offerings. iBooks will use the EPUB standard, and Steve Jobs hinted at more to come by saying, “We think iPad will be a terrific e-book reader for popular books and textbooks.” What that more is, however, is either TBD or under wraps. We can tell you that from the demo that it seemed as if non-academic books would be selling for $8-$15 each or so. No word on textbook selection or pricing, but obviously we expect that the titles will cost more than the trade books and less than print textbooks. Oh, and will the iBooks app work on iPhones? Seems like it should if it’s an app from the App Store and it uses the EPUB standard, right?

So where does this put us and college students in terms of what the iPad means and can deliver? Well, as always, Apple has delivered a gorgeous device that puts the competition to shame in terms of form and function. But we’re just not quite sure what the iPad’s function is exactly given that it’s somewhere between an iPod Touch and a MacBook (Steve acknowledged this from the get-go). We think that the iPad will carve its identity and that users and developers will dictate that identity pretty quickly. There’s a lot of possibility and potential here, and Apple knows it as they are already offering developers the iPad SDK.

In terms of textbooks, there’s a lot that’s unknown and we feel pretty safe in saying that the iPad is hardly making the printed word obsolete any time soon. But the iPad could have a very big future if more publishers get on board and load the store with content for good prices. Probably the biggest thing that iPad has going for it in terms of books (textbooks and non-academic titles) is that its price starts at just $10 more than the Kindle DX and the Kindle is just an eReader whereas the iPad is a lot closer to being a full computer with things like word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, map and GPS, games (they look amazing), movies, and anything else an app-maker can create. And that is a huge difference.

In the meantime, we’re eager to hear about textbook selection and pricing and to get our hands on an iPad to play with the iBook experience. Until then, while by no means a laptop replacement (still no Flash) or the complete eBooks device (yet), the iPad could easily be a Kindle killer.

Our entire existence is based upon the belief that students and book-lovers need never pay full price for books and that retail bookstores, be they on university campuses or in malls, sell their wares at inflated prices. We believe that consumers have options, often more options than they know about, and that they can save money by shopping online. So for more than a decade now, we’ve made it our mission to create and enhance a single website where shoppers could see all of their options in one place. And we love it. Not a day goes by that we don’t get students thanking us and saying something to the effect of “I can’t believe how much I saved using your site! Thank you!” Our pleasure.

Recently, with the release of our iBookStore app for iPhone, in particular v2 with scanning, we offered students and book-lovers a totally revolutionary way to literally see the savings — in the palms of their hands while in the bookstore — and to then purchase the cheapest books available in the entire marketplace with just a few touches of the screen.

To illustrate exactly what we’re talking about and why iBookStore is so innovative and illuminating, we did an experiment. We armed an intrepid team of students with our iBookStore iPhone app and had them brave Chicago’s wintry weather to do a little textbook shopping in a few university bookstores. They made their way through the stores, scanning textbooks across disciplines and comparing store prices with online deals — all from the free iBookStore app on their iPhones.

In addition to a few funny moments (and one that got a little tense when a bookstore clerk was uncooperative), the results of the price-comparison excursions are shocking but consistent (not to mention a good reminder of why was founded and that our work here is by no means complete). We urge you to visit our YouTube channel, check out these short videos, and see for yourselves that whether it’s medicine, humanities, economics, or law, university bookstores are overcharging students across the disciplines. Our team found that the average savings by using iBookStore was over 36% compared to the bookstore prices. And this statistic was just for new textbooks and didn’t even consider used books or textbook rentals where the opportunities to save are greater.

Watch the videos (iBookStore: Stop the Scam, Start the Scan Visit 1 and iBookStore: Stop the Scam, Start the Scan Visit 2) for details and you’ll see how time after time, our team scanned and saved, scanned and saved. It actually got a little scary for students buying from the bookstores, not to mention a little embarrassing for the bookstores overcharging their students. In fact, there was never an instance where a scan didn’t reveal that our team would save a good bit of money by buying through the iBookStore app instead of from the bookstore.

So in terms of saving and seeing for yourself that the power to stop the swindle lies in the palm of your hand, what are you waiting for? Download iBookStore, grab your iPhone, and head out to the bookstore on your campus. See for yourself just how much you can save and go for it; take advantage of the good deals and cheap books iBookStore finds for you then and there. And while you’re at it, film your own experience as a textbook hero and share it with us on YouTube. Show off your smart shopping and how you Stopped the Scam and Started the Scan!

Welcome to one of the best shopportunities of the year, the time when post-holiday and end-of-year sales promise the biggest bargains available and many retailers hurry to make sales before the January 31 end of the fiscal year. Whether it’s technology and gadgets, clothing and accessories, home furnishings, or media such as music and movies, now is undoubtedly the time to buy!

And textbooks are no different. In fact, there have never been more academic books available (in both quantity and format) at better prices. The market is wide open and it’s rife with amazing savings for those savvy student shoppers who buy early. But by the same token, there’s also more demand and more competition for those deals, so in order to capitalize on them, you must act quickly.

Right now, the days just after Christmas and immediately before and after New Year’s Day, are some of the busiest days in the textbook business for all of the reasons stated above, and of course, with the spring term starting later this month. Money-saving used books are the most desirable commodity and the first to go flying off the shelves. If you’re waiting until you go back to school in hopes of striking bargains at the campus bookstore, you’ll be too late.

The good news is that offers students access to the most merchants who stock the greatest number of cheap used textbooks as well as new books on sale, eco-friendly inexpensive textbook rentals, and instantly downloadable eBooks. It’s all here for you right now and all you have to do is search for the books you need and you’ll see the best deals and be able to take advantage of them all without even setting foot in a jam-packed bookstore during rush.

The bad news is that every day that you wait to order your books for the upcoming term means a smaller selection from which to choose and the best deals having already gone to students who shopped earlier. So what can you do to boost your chances of getting the best deals? Well, first and foremost, if you know the books that you need for the upcoming term, order them now. If you don’t know which books you need, send a polite email to your professors asking for the ISBNs, titles, and authors for the texts you’ll be using. Professors are aware that textbooks are pricey and they want you to do well in their courses, which means doing the reading. A polite and appreciative email should be well received, and of course, as soon as you get the necessary information, find the absolute best deals using the price-comparison tool. You’ll feel great going into a new year and a new semester knowing that you saved big on your college textbooks.

Recently we announced the first release of iBookStore, our free price-comparison app for iPhone and iPod Touch. From day one, we knew that development would be an ongoing labor of love, one that would see all sorts of cool enhancements that best served students and book-lovers alike.

We’ve gotten a great response to iBookStore in its young stages, and we thank everyone who has downloaded it, used it to save money on books, rated it, and provided feedback (please keep all of those things coming). As we mentioned when we introduced the app, we are committed to staying on the cutting edge and delivering the new features that make iBookStore a must-have app for finding the best deals on books . . .

. . . Which brings us to the next wave of big news about iBookStore: Now (and just in time for the end of the term), in addition to finding the best deals for buying books, the app finds the best deals for selling books back! It’s super easy, simply punch in the ISBN of your book and you’ll see both buying and selling options, all from your phone wherever you are. It’s real-time information that brings you the most for your money whether you are buying or selling.

So, if you’re a college student, make sure that you have the latest release of iBookStore loaded on your iPhone so that you can avoid waiting in long buyback lines at the campus bookstore only to find that they’re paying next to nothing for your books. And if you’re a reader looking to declutter and put old books into circulation and bring in some holiday cash, iBookStore is perfect for you as well.


Two big announcements coming at you in this installment of the Blog, and the good news is related so get ready to double up, especially if you love technology like we do.

First off, we’ve added an iPhone app to our suite of beyond-the-website offerings. So now, in addition to the iGoogle Gadget and the Twitter Price Tweetbacks, you can also get real-time price comparisons (and so much more book info) via iBookStore, our free app for iPhone and iPod Touch. It’s awesome and puts the power to save big on books in your hands wherever you are.

We released the app recently and we’ve already rolled out an updated-and-revised version. That’s the nature of technology, right? Capabilities increase, expectations escalate, and everything Internet-driven needs to grow and change not just with the times but often ahead of them and in anticipation of them.

And that brings us to our second bit of news wherein we announce a design contest for the iBookStore app in anticipation of upcoming releases! Yep, if you’re a graphic designer, here’s your chance to win some cash, hone your skills in the hot iPhone-app arena, and add to your portfolio!

So, that’s our two announcements for now. If you’re not a designer, but you’re a book person who loves your savings (and your iPhone), download the iBookStore app to see how much you can save (and to play around with award-winners, bestsellers, lists, and other fun features). There’s a lot of cool content there, and as I wrote, we’re already working on updates and enhancements. If you are a designer, definitely check out the contest and submit your work. We want to see you get creative, so don’t be afraid to be bold and daring!

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 über-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!

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