Can textbooks really be free?  It’s a great concept and the topic generates plenty of coverage, but what does it really mean?  If you had asked me back in January 2008 what the buzz would be six months later I would have told you “textbook rental”.   I was pretty sure that the concept of rental was going to really take off and catch the media by storm.  I mean, what a great concept, you pay a lower price for your books getting the buyback value upfront and reducing your overall expense.  Don’t get me wrong, rental is still a great choice for students but the idea of renting textbooks never got picked up.  The media it seems, doesn’t seem to like things that are just cheaper, they want them to be free!

Unfortunately not everything in life can be free.  Professors still have to be paid for the intellectual property (their ideas) that textbooks are based on.  Photographers need to be paid for illustrations and images to make the book more interesting to read.  Editors and printers need to be paid to put the book together and the bookstore (or online marketplace) needs to be paid for distributing the book to you.  So, I guess if everyone wants to work for free then the textbook can be free as well?

As you see, to the dismay of many students, textbooks can’t be free.  So what is the real future of textbooks and how can we reduce those costs?  Let’s examine a few things that are going on right now.

Advertising Supported Textbooks – love this concept.  The student’s accesses an online version of their textbook and gets peppered with ads that help to reduce or eliminate the cost of the books

Torrents – A student buys the book, scans it in and then posts it online in a file share program for others to download.

eBooks – As we have well documented in our blog, this is a new market in which students can access online or download the textbook for use.

Open Source Textbooks – using open source file sharing warehouses, professors can create and share content which can then be used in place of the traditional textbook

All of these have potential to make a dent in the cost of textbooks but none of them will be the “textbook killer” that the media is looking for.

Over the next few weeks we will examine each of these and see what benefits they can bring and what pitfalls to be aware of.

By: Jeff Cohen

I am always surprised at how many college students feel that they want to hold on to their textbooks and not maximize there value by selling them at buyback.  Textbooks, like cars, are a depreciating asset.  The greatest value for a textbook is seen selling it as early as possible.

I remember standing in line one day and watching the people in my class sell back their book for $55 apiece.  When it was my turn they only offered me $20 for the same book.  What happened?  Why did I get less?  It is the basic laws of supply and demand.  The buyback program was only going to purchase so many copies back at the premium price.  Once those were purchased the offer price drops as the books are no longer being purchased for your campus, they are being purchased for the wholesale market.

So how do you get the most value for your books?  For starters you should have a sense of what the current online market looks like.  How many sellers are selling your textbook and what online buyers are currently paying for it?  This will help you make an informed decision while in the buyback line.

Next, sell you books back before your final class.  As soon as your test gets out everyone in your class will be running to the buyback counter to sell back books.  If you are not one of the lucky few who get to the line early you may not get the premium you are looking for.

Finally, don’t be stupid!  If they are offering you 30% – 50% of the value of the book sell it now, don’t hold it until later.  Your books will just sit on the shelf and collect dust for the next twenty years.  You will pack and move them five times and then realize the information is out of date and they are worthless.  We live in the information age where you can reference anything online; does that book really have a magical power that will help you succeed in a job?

By: Jeff Cohen

In some of our last posts on eBooks we explored the idea of total value (TV). But, what is it really and do students really care? We have all been in the situation of spending $150 for a book and at the end of the semester selling it back for $20. It kind of seems like a slap in the face to me. That slap gets even worse when someone else in your class goes to the same buyback station and gets $50 for the book. So how does this work? How can I get the most value for my books and what is the total value I am receiving? Over the next few weeks we will explore these ideas and try to provide you with ways to increase the total value you can get from your textbooks.

Total value is the cost of the book minus the amount you got by selling the book back at the end of the semester. The real cash you get is your “real” value but to determine how to apply it at the beginning of the semester you have to consider “perceived” value. This is making a calculated guess as to how much you will get back for the book at the end of the semester. Ultimately, it’s a gamble.

Guaranteed buyback – one way to determine what the future value of your textbook would be to shop at locations that offer an upfront buyback price. Some campus bookstores have begun this practice, as well as websites like and You simply buy the book from them and they will guarantee an end of semester buyback price. Return the book and receive that predetermined amount of cash.

Current Market Value – with a little research you can find out what the current market value of a textbook. This is done is two ways. First, check the current online buyback price. These quotes are only good for 10 to 30 days but it if the book currently has value the chances are that value should remain close to that level for the semester (but this is not a guarantee). Second, take a look at the current marketplace value. See how much people are selling the textbook for at sites such as or

Once you know the perceived value you can make a more informed decision.

By: Jeff Cohen

While strolling through campus on a gorgeous day I was distracted from my fruit smoothie by someone offering me a free t-shirt. Since t-shirts comprise 75% of my wardrobe I stopped to learn more. I quickly found out that I would more or less be paying for this t-shirt for the rest of my life in the form of a credit card. With my budget, I know that if I can’t afford something now, I probably can’t afford it when the bill comes due next month. And I am absolutely sure I can’t afford it plus 8% the following month.

Now, I could have filled out the form, gotten the t-shirt and not used the credit card. I’d like to believe that I am responsible enough for that. In fact, I am that responsible. I have a couple of credit cards on me right now. I can’t remember the last time I used them because they are only for emergencies. Luckily, I live a disaster-free life and never have to use my credit cards.

There really is no such thing as a free lunch, or free t-shirt for that matter. On every campus across America there are dozens if not hundreds of students who have been lured into staggering credit card debt by the promise of a free shirt, alarm clock, or coffee maker. Not every student understands the finer points of credit. Not every student understands how interest rates and late fees can raise the price of a cup of coffee from $4 to $400 by the end of the year. Credit cards are great if you have a stable income from month to month. If you know with absolute certainty you can pay the credit card bill at the end of the month than by all means use it. But, if like me you are on a limited budget and drinking free coffee at work in the morning, keep the plastic at home.

To sum up, there are some three great cliches that ring true here-

  1. There is no such thing as a free lunch (free t-shirt)
  2. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing (NOBODY just gives things away without an ulterior motive)
  3. Don’t borrow from Peter to pay Paul (which is what you do when you use a credit card. Peter is far meaner than Paul and charges ridiculous interest rates) is an amazing website. One can purchase just about anything on there . . . gardening supplies, clothing, furniture, electronics, books, and even textbooks. In fact more and more students are turning towards as a one-stop Internet shop for all their needs. And why not order your textbooks from there? It beats waiting in line at the bookstore. It beats having to carry them all across campus back to your room. And it’s usually far easier to find my books on also.

My friends, those are all excellent reasons. What too many people fail to realize though is that those reasons exist for every single online textbook company. has a lot of competition out there in the textbook marketplace. If one is interested in doing some real shopping one should explore more than one store. When you go to the mall do you only to one store? No, you go to a bunch. The Internet can be thought of as a mall where you don’t have to walk. Considering how much less time it takes to shop online it’s a no-brainer to check out some of the competition.

Of course it’s easy to think of and them alone. Their name is everywhere whether in the news, or advertising on TV and the Internet. If you want to buy something and run a Google search on it chances are will appear near the top. All that exposure drives business and often there are great bargains to be had on textbooks through But, as always I caution you to explore your options. At times you might be able to save hundreds of dollars by sourcing used textbooks on another site.

If the prospect of sourcing textbooks has you already bookmarking do not fret. has a price comparison tool that shows you the textbook price across a wide variety of websites including Plus, it also explains any shipping costs and other fine print that may increase the price or wait time for the book. So, with little to no effort you’ve sourced your textbook across multiple websites and found the best price. Perhaps you should bookmark

Today’s entry is going to be short and to the point. In the most general sense a ‘Used Textbook‘ can be classified as any book that isn’t brand new. Now, why might you want one? Again it doesn’t take much insight into the world of textbooks to understand. Simply put, they are usually cheaper. Much like a car rolling off a lot, once that new textbook is purchased from the bookstore it immediately depreciates making it a bargain for the next owner. This is especially true if the original owner took good care of it, making sure to not rip any pages or disfigure the cover.

The used textbook while usually cheaper and thus a better value is not for everyone. More often than not the used book is pre-highlighted, with notes in the margins, and significant passages underlined. Some students are too distracted to follow along in a marked text. Some prefer to make their own notes and highlights. You never know, the book’s previous owner may have been an imbecile who simply liked to play with highlighters which invalidates all those notes. lists the conditions of used books within the seller’s comments when you perform a price comparison. This way you can make an informed decision when purchasing your text.

It is important to note that the used book is not ALWAYS the cheapest. On occasion a diligent student might be able to find an international edition or perhaps a teachers edition of the same book that has been further discounted. As always, it is best to do your research when buying your textbooks online.

What if you could balance out every bad thing you’ve ever done by paying a couple cents to offset it? Well of course you can’t offset every bad thing you’ve done! However, now you can at least offset the bad things you do to the environment when you have books shipped to you! One of our bookstore partners, Better World Books, now offers Carbonfree shipping. With Carbonfree shipping, buyers pay a few extra cents per book at checkout. Better World Books then uses that money to buy carbon offset credits, which are used to fund renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects. Better World Books buys enough carbon offsets to negate the carbon dioxide emissions that will be caused by the shipping of the books that you purchase, so bibliophiles can indulge in their addictions guilt-free!

Here is a little more information about how carbon offsetting works:

According to, the average American is responsible for about 23 tons of CO2. Carbon dioxide emissions are caused by the burning of fossil fuels that people use everyday to run their cars, heat their houses, and receive consumer goods like groceries and clothes that are delivered via trucks and planes to stores. How much carbon dioxide each person is directly responsible for emitting is called their carbon footprint. Buying carbon offset credits allows people to negate their carbon footprint by contributing their money to environment-rebuilding projects. is proud to be a bookstore partner of Better World Books and we applaud their bold step to strive towards carbon neutral status. Try using the Carbonfree shipping option next time you purchase a book! For more information please visit Better World Books Carbonfree and What are Carbon Offsets.

Pick your textbook, rent it for the semester at a fraction of the purchase price, send it back for free–plant yourself a small forest by the end of your college career! This ambitious eco-friendly claim can actually be realized if students rent their textbooks from bookstore partner, is now making it easy, cost-effective and environment-friendly to rent textbooks. Here’s how:
Students select the book, receive the book by mail, keep it until the end of the semester, and send it back to using a pre-paid shipping label paid for by No waiting in line to buy the book, no waiting in line to sell it back for a loss. If a student loves the book, they can buy it. Simple. Straightforward. Now if only memorizing the book contents were that easy!

The average student can save up to 80 percent or more by renting from This means a $146.95 chemistry book can be rented and used for only $13.65, a $109.95 psychology book can be rented for $13.10, so on and so forth. Searching for the book through will notify students of the lowest price available for their book, so they can make informed choices about whether textbook rental is the most economical choice for them. With all that leftover money, students can finally stop digging under the couch cushions for change!

According to the Green Press Initiative, the U.S. is responsible for the consumption of 20 million trees per year for books [1]. In order to help reforestation efforts, will plant a tree for every textbook that is rented from the Web site.

Students can now rest easy that when they shop with, they are not only assured of getting the lowest price, they are also given options to protect the world that they are studying to impact. We are proud to be bookstore partners with Web sites like and

[1] The Green Press Initiative:

International editions are a godsend for people who prefer low prices over textbook frills like color pictures and glossy, heavy pages.  International editions of textbooks often seem shrouded in mystery.  Who prints them? Why are they so cheap?  Will they really be sufficient to replace the required textbook?  All these questions can prevent students from taking advantage of an often highly-economical alternative to their conventional textbook.

Because international editions are printed by publishers for a student population whose standard of living may be lower than that of the United States, the textbooks are priced accordingly, and can oftentimes be half the price that an American student would pay.  The cheaper cost of textbook printing overseas, printing in black and white instead of color, and printing on lower-quality, thinner paper are all additional reasons for the lower price of international textbooks. 

Here are five tips to keep in mind if you want to buy an international edition:

     1)     The content of an international edition and its American counterpart are often almost the same, if not completely identical.  The only differences students say they have noticed is that the pictures are sometimes in black and white instead of color and the cover may be different (i.e. soft cover instead of hardcover, or different cover art altogether).  This can make it somewhat hard to figure out if the international edition is indeed the same book that you are looking for.

2)      To leave the least room for error, always make sure that the TITLE, AUTHOR, and EDITION NUMBER of the international edition and your required text match before you purchase the international edition.  Those three components are the only surefire way to know that you are ordering the correct book.

    3)      Make sure to read seller comments carefully when considering international editions.  Sellers will often tell customers beforehand the differences between the international edition they are looking at and the regular edition.

    4)      Some students have reported that the page numbering in the two editions may be different, even though the content and order of the pages and chapters are the same.  This should not be a big deal since most readers don’t pay attention to page numbers anyway.

    5)      Lastly, when calculating the price of the international edition, make sure to also look at the shipping price.  Sometimes the cost of shipping can make an otherwise cheaper book turn out to be more expensive than its American-published counterpart.  Luckily, if you use to compare prices, we already include the cost of shipping in our calculation of overall prices, which means easier buying and less hassle for you!  Happy saving!

Remember, if you have any additional questions about international editions or textbooks in general, please do not hesitate to email us at!