New Tools for Comparing Textbooks of All Formats

When it comes to buying textbooks, students currently have more options now than ever before. The choice is no longer just between your university’s new and used textbook selection, but also includes options such as digital books, book rental, and hard copies of books from various online stores. But with all of these options, how is a student supposed to know where the best deal is? After all, textbooks often cost students hundreds of dollars per quarter.

New online tools have emerged in order to answer this question. Students are now able to compare the prices of their textbooks around the web- similar to how they would compare airline tickets on travel sites. Wired Campus highlighted three of the most popular and successful tools students and universities are using:

  • The University Bookstore’s price comparison

    Amazon Student is a free app compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. To use it, the student takes a picture of the bar code found on the back of the textbook. Amazon will then search its store to find a better deal for the book–be it new, used, or digital. The search will also display the “sell back” price and allow students to sell back their items (which are not limited to books) in exchange for an Amazon gift card.

  • Many university bookstores have set up their own price comparison tools. The University of Washington has a tool for all of its campuses, and can be found on the University Bookstore’s website (after opening the link, click on your campus and choose the “Compare Prices” option). This tool brings up prices for your course’s books from sites like CourseSmart, Amazon, AbeBooks, Half, Barnes & Noble and Alibris. The student may then compare the prices to options the University Bookstore has to offer (these may include new, used, rental or digital, depending on availability). Although this may seem like something that may drive students away from their university’s bookstore, the article reports “that in about 80 percent of the cases, students chose to buy from the bookstore rather than from an online competitor”.
  • is a textbook price comparison tool created by two students at Yale University. On the site, students can search for a textbook from both online sellers, and physical storefronts around Yale. The article reports that the site has been extremely successful and that 60% of site visitors end up making a purchase. Although it is currently only used for Yale students, the company is looking to expand to other colleges some time next year.