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.



Being Green: What Does It Mean?
Your Answer Could Win You a FREE Semester’s Worth of Textbooks

If you haven’t already heard, celebrated Earth Day by announcing our Being Green Textbook Scholarship. 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 Kindle2 Digital Reader.

The Being Green 2009 Scholarship runs from Earth Day, April 22, 2009 through July 31, 2009. 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 next term? Exactly. So that said, get your spring on and enter now.


In this installment of our Bookmark These blog series, we focus our attention on CollegeClickTV, which presents a massive amount of information in slightly differently ways from most sites.

CollegeClickTV: Millions of Students. Thousands of Interviews. Hundreds of Schools. One of a Kind.


The Deal in a Nutshell: CollegeClickTV offers key stats to over 2,000 colleges, videos from over 200 campuses, and over 20,000 interviews from students, professors, staff, faculty, and local merchants. It’s the scoop that you won’t get from any official college sites or a guidebooks.

About: “A student can come to CollegeClickTV and search for anything — from aspects of nightlife to campus activities to Greek life and much more. The site, in essence, picks up where the college-sponsored website leaves off. Although we do also provide school stats and other basic info, we are not competition for those other sites–we act as a complement. We’re like the gravy to their mashed potatoes. CollegeClickTV is absolutely the only website, of this magnitude and scope, to offer peer review video content on this subject matter.”

What You’ll Find on the Site:

  • A comparison tool where you can examine key stats for up to 4 colleges at once
  • A sweet collection of Top 5 lists ranking the serious and fun aspects of college
  • Tips on admission, financial aid, balancing your studies and your personal life, and careers and grad-school options for life after college
  • Downloadable images that are great for your desktop
  • A killer blog feed that pulls stories from the best and brightest all over the Web

Why We Dig It: CollegeClickTV gets our attention for three reasons:

  1. The site emphasizes video footage, and not just any old uploads or footage that looks a lot like the cinematography from The Blair Witch Project; we’re talking about professionally shot footage.
  2. The breadth of coverage is pretty massive. This one site is a veritable goldmine in terms of the amount, diversity, and quality of information presented here.
  3. The inside scoop is awesome. We love that CollegeClickTV keeps it real in terms of tackling stuff we wouldn’t find in official college publications or guides.

Bonus Bit o’ Cool: In addition to already providing a ton of great content for both current college students and high-school students looking to select a college, CollegeClickTV is still growing, still looking to deliver more, and they’ll pay for contributions. We love this sort of ambition and win-win proposition for college students.


In the latest installment of our Bookmark These blog series, we focus our attention on the new and rapidly growing Dorms 101 website. Here’s the scoop:

Dorms 101: Your Guide to College Dorm Life!


The Deal in a Nutshell: Dorms 101 is a robust site for students living in university housing. While the site is geared toward those living in the dorms, there's plenty of quality content for all students, even those living off campus.

About: ” is the largest and most complete online source for tips, tricks, and advice on making the most out of your experience living in the dorms. This site is unique in the fact that it is written for students and parents of students who live in the dorms, or are about to be living in a college dorm room. Dorm life will be the single biggest social time of a student's life — and Dorms 101 is your guide to making the most of it.”

What You’ll Find on the Site: Tips, tricks, and advice on:

  • Safety and security
  • Style, decorating and designing your dorm room
  • Meeting new neighbors and making new friends
  • Studying in an environment that can be more than a little distracting
  • Getting along with roommates and floormates
  • Transitioning into — and eventually out of – the dorms
  • Food, food storage, cooking, grocery shopping, and nutrition
  • Budgets and finances
  • Dealing with parents and how to help parents deal with your college time
  • How to have fun and make the most of the college and campus experiences

Why We Dig It: Dorms 101 looks really promising and poised for big things. While Dorms 101 is new and there's not vast a ton of articles and posts, the stuff that is there is good and the site is set up in a very smart and scalable way to allow for ample growth. As well, Dorms 101 covers a vast amount of topical territory and the set-up encourages a lot of user participation and interactivity in the forms of comments, surveys, Twitter updates, Facebook and MySpace presences, and feeds. These folks definitely want visitors informed and involved.

Bonus Bit o’ Cool: In addition to loving the ways in which Dorms 101 works to create a user community (an essential part of Web 2.0), we also give props to Dorm 101 for showing as well as telling. The site has a lot of nice multimedia in the forms of sweet videos and a Flickr photostream.


Last week we introduced our spring blog series, Bookmark These: Must-Read Sites & Blogs for College Students. To kick things off, we focus our attention on the tremendously informative and delightfully irreverent HackCollege. Here’s the scoop:

HackCollege: Lifehacks & Study Tips for College Students


The Deal in a Nutshell: Inspired by, but independent of, the popular LifeHacker website, Hack College is all about “working smarter, not harder.”

Mission Statement: “HackCollege is educating the students of the world about effective, open source software, putting techno-political arguments in everyday language, and creating a cult of ‘Students 2.0.’ If we can change the way 1 percent of college students and faculty in the world view education and technology, we’ve done our job.”

What You’ll Find on the Site: Tech tips, lifestyle enrichment advice, software and other product reviews, recommended reading, blog entries and video of the HackCollege show, updates about the HC community getting together at conferences and concerts, musings on important issues to college students (politics, the environment, internships and jobs), and of course, beer and parties.

Why We Dig It: Hack College is the perfect balance of serious and fun. There’s a ton of practical advice and great resources, and it’s all presented in a slick and enjoyable way. The site is organized, easy to navigate, and loaded with quality content. It’s tech savvy without being prohibitively geeky, serious without ever being a buzzkill, professional without being uptight, and the vibe is honest and chill but never lazy or apathetic. It’s clear that Kelly and the other HackCollege contributors take their site seriously and are committed to helping fellow students make the most of their college experiences.

Bonus Bit o’ Cool: HackCollege has been so successful that in November 2008, the creators reached across the pond and launched to share all of the HC goodness with students in the British Isles. While the content differs between the US and the UK versions so as to address regional particulars in higher education, much of the information contained in the UK version is applicable to students in the US, and vice versa. That said, double your hacktasticness and bookmark both versions to maximize the bennies that the HackCollege brand has to offer.


Welcome to March, which as we all know, comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. To take some of the roar out of these final bitter weeks of winter and get you through to the more docile days of spring, we’ve decided to bring you a roundup of some of our favorite student-centric sites.

While there’s no shortage of college-focused websites and blogs containing relevant news, helpful tips and tricks, resources and reviews, slick multimedia, and suggestions for ways to help you study smarter (um, and to also distract you when you need a break from all-night chem cramming), we’ve narrowed it down to our 15 favorites, which we've listed below.

Stay tuned for upcoming blog entries starting next Wednesday when we’ll dive deeper into some of these sites and discuss why we consider them so indispensable. In the meantime, check out our fab 15 below and feel free to comment with suggestions of your own regarding must-reads for college students.


15 Must-Read Sites & Blogs for College Students

On February 24, Amazon will begin shipping its new second-generation wireless reader, a device that the Internet retail giant calls simply Kindle 2. In this installment of the blog, we’ll examine the device, with a focus on what the K2 means for college students considering it as a means for reading textbooks digitally.

Physically and Aesthetically: The Kindle 2 is slimmer, trimmer, rounder, and generally sexier and less clunky than the original, but it’s still no drool-worthy knockout in the looks department. In addition to being more attractive and ergonomic than its predecessor, K2 has abandoned the old-school up-down scroll-wheel in favor of a 5-way controller (basically a tiny joystick) for improved navigation. Using the controller and the QWERTY keyboard, users can make annotations to text and highlight and clip key passages, which is excellent for those of us who like to make notes in the margins. Unfortunately, there is a caveat and it’s a big one: Amazon says, “Due to PDF’s fixed-layout format, some complex PDF files may not format correctly on your Kindle.” Wait, my formatting might take a hit and the PDF issues that have been a constant complaint about the original Kindle still plague Kindle 2?

Display: Size (6″ diagonal) and resolution (600×800) remain the same as the original but K2 is now up to 16-level grayscale from the original device’s four. Text-size is now adjustable and page turning is supposedly 20% faster than on the original Kindle. Okay, clearly the emphasis is on sharpness of text and paper-and-ink look rather than graphics. While this is assuredly an improvement and a cool thing for readers of literature and periodicals trying to replicate the page-turning experience, it doesn’t satisfy users who need color representations of images and graphs and illustrations. Bottom line, grayscale, no matter how many shades or layers, isn’t going to cut it with textbooks and it seems pretty passé in 2009.

Storage: Big change here, one that will please some users while annoying others. The original Kindle had a small memory (256MB) and an SD card slot that allowed users to expand (and to some extent, file and organize) via removable cards. The Kindle 2 has much more internal memory (2GB, approximately 1.4 available for user content), but it does not have an SD slot, which means that when capacity is reached, it’s time to delete (or buy the new Kindle 3, which will undoubtedly be available at that time). Amazon says that the K2′s internal capacity holds “more than 1,500 books,” and I don't doubt that, but I would venture to guess that those books are most likely not 450-page textbooks heavy on diagrams and illustrations.

Battery Life and Wireless: Amazon says that “with Kindle’s 25% longer battery life, you can read on a single charge for up to 4 days with wireless on, up to 2 weeks with wireless off. Connectivity relies upon Amazon Whispernet to provide wireless coverage via Sprint’s 3G high-speed data network.” All good there, and book downloads from Amazon’s Kindle Store look speedy (under a minute), but outside of that, Kindle’s Basic Web browser looks rather rudimentary and fit only for simple text-based websites such as Google and Wikipedia. Definitely not going to replace any iPhones or laptops.

New Goodies: A feature that bodes well for textbook reading is the inclusion of The New Oxford American Dictionary (250,000+ entries and definitions). Amazon describes the look-up process as non-interruptive, “simply move the cursor to it and the definition will automatically display at the bottom of the screen.” Another new feature I think worth mentioning is the addition of text-to-speech, a voice that Stephen King described as “a little bit like a GPS voice.” I view this enhancement much like I view the jump from 4 to 16-layer grayscale; that is to say that it’s good and necessary, but it’s not really enough. I mean, if you think your profs are boring during lectures and that reading a textbook is senses-numbing, imagine it all being spoken in GPS robot voice. Just saying…

Which brings me to my final assessment of the new Kindle 2: I think that the improvements and additions are excellent and much needed, but I still think that the device leaves a lot to be desired. In the K2, Amazon’s has done many things right and better, but not for an academic audience. For me, the lack of a color screen (and hey, what about a touchscreen?) is a major disappointment as is the limited internal capacity with no expansion slot.

If Amazon really wants to pave the way in digital reading, they’re going to have to satisfy the student demographic and develop a Kindle that seriously addresses what being a student means as well as the textbook-reading experience. Right now, what’s stopping the Kindle 2 from being that device is the vexing too-much-and-not-enough problem. The price is too much ($359 for the new K2 is not a price drop from the original and it’s simply prohibitively expensive for students), and the memory, graphics, and PDF capabilities are too little. When Amazon (or another company) delivers a digital reader that really caters to student needs, publishers will pay attention and be compelled to increase their digital offerings. What we have here is a case where technology could lead and set the precedent in terms of textbook delivery, interaction, and price. Unfortunately, the Kindle 2 is not the piece of technology that's going to do that.


To start I have to say that does not support the illegal distribution of any materials but since it is currently happening in the textbook industry I feel the need to address it as a way for students to access information.  If not for the illegality, the idea makes perfect sense; a student buys a $150 book, copies all the pages and creates a PDF and then shares it with all their friends in class.

The concept of photocopying a book is nothing new.  The internet just allows the old photocopy to be scanned and shared with more people in a faster manner.  Years ago the big problem was students using university copy machines to make the copies!  At the time, the problem was not so widespread, and as long as the University made their ten cents a page they turned a blind eye.  As long as the university can still generate $20 for a 200 page textbook they didn't care so much.  But converting those copies into a PDF file eliminates the need to pay for photocopies.

The prohibitive cost of photocopying a textbook that is a few hundred pages also kept the practice in check.  For thinner books this will probably suit you fine because the costs are nominal.  But if you are going to just print the book off so that you can read it you may want to give it some serious consideration as the overall cost could easily be more than simply buying that book online.  And don't forget what you are doing is illegal and could have negative consequences.

Again, we have covered this in the past so I am just going to reference some old posts covering the topic.

Are eBooks right for me?  – Part 1
Are eBooks right for me? – Part 2

by: Jeff Cohen

There is great potential in this idea and I can definitely see it picking up steam over the next year as more and more people become aware of it.  In short, using an open source education system such as MIT Open Courseware project, will allow professors to write and share curriculum with each other.  This is actually very close to the original intent of those who first created the World Wide Web.  Professors can then collect the materials into a “packet” and share it with students in their classes.  As more professors join these groups to create study materials, more of their work will find its way into the classroom.

The one thing that might hold up this idea will be the competition that is bound to start between open courseware projects.  Each school is going to want to have the “premier” set of data.  This will ultimately lead to the information being split into different systems and programs (contrary to the original intent), making it harder for professors to pull everything together that they want.  Ultimately as the open source courseware becomes perfected there will be two or three dominant systems and eventually we will have another Beta Vs VHS (or Blu Ray vs HD DVD) as different schools and companies fight to create the dominant system for consolidating the data.

The goal of this project should be to create one single repository of information that can be used and shared, as the creators of the World Wide Web intended.  It's taken 20+ years but maybe educators are finally getting back to the basics of how to use technology to improve the learning process.

The benefit for students is that initially this program will create free data.  Eventually however I am sure that many of these programs will offer a print on demand service that allows you to get a printed copy for a price, so enjoy it while it's free.

by: Jeff Cohen