Cash-Strapped College

Infographic – Free Textbooks in California

Over the past six months we have followed the new legislation in California for the first national digital textbook library. With the law passing the legislature it is now awaiting the Governor’s signature. To demonstrate the benefit of the law, 20 Million Minds created an infographic to show the benefit. (more…)

Who’s Screwing Whom? – The Great Textbook / Bookstore Debate

As we’re in the midst of back-to-school rush, I’m reading some interesting industry-related articles and posts. While many are the standard “how to save on college, dorm decor, food, textbooks, etc.,” types of writings, a few more-detailed (and more honest and daring) posts have caught my attention. I wanted to take a moment to share them with you. (more…)

Why Can’t I Buy My Book Any Where But the Bookstore? Part 1

As back-to-school time gets closer and closer, many students will seek the ISBNs of the books they need for classes. This generation of college students has grown up with Internet shopping and they have been well trained to understand barcodes and SKUs and ISBNs and other retail codes that identify product. (more…)

Ask the Guru – A Letter From Mom on Buying Textbooks for Her Son

I recently received this inquiry from a parent looking to help her son.

“I’m looking to purchase, lease, or rent books for my son who is in New Jersey but I live in Georgia. My husband and I will put the books on our credit card but how much confusion is this going to cause when we want them sent to him? How long will it take for him to get his books and can he get a discount for good grades? He just graduated from with a degree in Addiction Counseling, now he is re-enrolled in another major so as to increase his employment options. (more…)

Seven Ways to Hack College with Apps and Online Tools

You have your laptop to take notes, e-mail to keep up with assignments, and Facebook to distract yourself from assignments.  But what about nontraditional uses of technology to enhance the college experience? Here are some of my top suggestions for Student 2.0.

  1. Grades

Grades 2 is an application for iPhone, iPod, and iPad users that makes tracking your progress simple.  You enter the classes you’re taking, fill in all your semester assignments and relative weights, and then feed the app your grades as the course progresses.  Grades 2 will then average the scores and tell you your current grade, GPA, due dates, sub-grades, etc.  Unfortunately, the app won’t be able to inform you whether or not it’s worth it to sleep through your boring 8 A.M lecture –even so, this is a free application that could save you some of that end-of-semester panic.

  1. Books

If you’re looking to save money and stress on textbooks, avoid the crammed, under-stocked campus bookstore and go online, obviously, online retailers like CampusBooks.com can help you buy, rent, or sell textbooks back. And it’s not just for buying: when you’re done, selling books back online will also help you recoup your losses and avoid getting ripped off at the bookstore.

Don’t forget to explore resources like open-source and free books, like at Flat World Knowledge and other sites as an alternative to textbooks.

  1. Studying

As enjoyable as 3 A.M cram sessions in the library can be, there are a host of tech services to help improve the efficiency of your studying.  Companies like Evernote, StudyBlue, and Cramberry are online flashcard-storage services that let you create a digital note card stack which can then be synced with a smartphone and studied on the go: in line at Starbucks, at the gym, even–radical as it sounds—in the library.

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The Trouble with Course Readers

Many professors, especially those teaching article-heavy classes in the social sciences, skip textbooks entirely, opting to offer course readers instead. Course readers mix together articles, notes and textbook clippings that are directly related to the course. They are updated frequently and cost about $30 to around $80, which compared to the price of a new textbook is cheap–though they can go up above a hundred depending on the course. They are specifically designed for that course, usually by professors, which reduces the cost of wasted, unread pages.

The Stanford Flipside blog has a graphic opinion on course reader prices

Looking from that standpoint, readers seem like an easy, cheap and smart alternative to textbooks. Unfortunately, readers come with as many flaws as they do perks. The largest flaw? They can’t be resold. Textbook retailers are uninterested, and while you might get a few bucks from a future student, but course readers can change each year.

Another very simple flaw is that most of the information in readers can be found online, more often than not, for free. The cost of course readers comes from printing costs, but more than that, reprint fees that professors pay in order to reproduce the article or page in print. But when many news sites have free archives online, and most schools offer some sort of academic journal collection free for students, it’s a tough sell. Couldn’t students just click links for free?
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