Archive for August, 2011

The Death of International Editions and Follet Sues BookRenter

It’s not that often that I have the chance to follow legal proceedings. I don’t care much for lawyers or being sued and when I read legal documents, I sometimes get confused and annoyed by the jargon that I frustratedly walk away after wishing for a Cliffs Notes version.

For as much as I try to stay away from legalese, two legal matters have crossed my desk and caught my attention in the last week alone. The first: on Friday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that items purchased outside of the United States and then brought in and resold do not apply to the first sale doctrine. Why does this matter? Because this is the law that many resellers have been hiding behind to import international editions of textbooks. In the past, we have covered international/overseas editions and I won’t rehash that here. What you need to know is that the Friday’s ruling paves the way for publishers to go on the offensive against any resellers of these books.

Over the past two years, publishers have been aggressive in their pursuits to remove overseas editions of textbooks from the U.S. market, and with good reason: sales of these editions cut into sales that the domestic copyright holder (the publisher) would otherwise make. Publishers have been successful in getting wholesalers to stop participating in the trade, but this new ruling could have far-reaching arms as it would embolden publishers to clamp down on marketplaces such as AbeBooks and Alibris and force them to regulate individual sellers’ listings  that violate the new law. Only time will tell how this plays out.

In other interesting news, it seems the breakup between Follett and BookRenter is not as amicable as it seemed back when the first announcement of the split was made at CAMEX . In recent legal news, it seems that while Follett has moved forward with its own solution, BookRenter doesn’t want to just give up all those relationships without a bit of a fight. Since I haven’t seen any of the legal contracts, I won’t speculate, but Follett has been known to protect itself when it comes to legal battles so I wonder of BookRenter is really ready for a fight or just trying to delay the inevitable.

Comparing Prices for the Top Used, New and e-book Retailers

Last week, we launched CampusBooks’ new e-book search service, and with it,findings comparing the availability of the top 1000 textbooks at each of those e-book merchants (see what Mashable had to say about it, too). This week, we took it one step further, and compared what everyone actually cares about: pricing.

We compared prices for the top 1000 textbooks from CampusBooks’ rental, used, and new options, finding the average price. We also then found the prices from our seven e-book retailers. The results? Whether you pick e-books, old-school books, or both, if you don’t compare, it’s going to cost you.

Specifically, 92% of the time, used and rental textbooks were the best deal-but before you run out to rent your textbooks, keep in mind that these prices were already aggregated from our entire list of over 40 merchants on CampusBooks. Picking just one rental or used site won’t yield the same results.

And even if you went with just used or rental, you’d be missing out on the opportunity to save serious money the other 8% of the time. In one instance, a book was a whopping $50 cheaper as an e-book version.

Still, comparing just between e-book retailers proved that even in that realm, while CourseSmart dominated in availability, the best prices were spread across the board. The three retailers with the highest likelihood of having the cheapest option were: CourseSmart (32.6%), Kno using the exclusive coupon only on CampusBooks (29.4%), and Barnes & Noble  (26.5%).
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Chegg Addresses Final Pieces to the Puzzle

In March, we speculated how Chegg was in the process of repositioning itself within the market . It seems that Chegg has confirmed our suspicions with a few recent moves. After the purchase of Student of Fortune, the rentals giant began referring to itself as the “Social Educational Platform” and developing a “Social Graph” with students. Now we see it using the language of a “One Stop Shop” from planning courses (Course Rank), to notes (NoteHall), and now tutoring (Student of Fortune).

The final piece of the puzzle was placed when Chegg released HTML5 textbooks. Why is that important? While others are fighting over iPad, Android, PC, Mac, and Facebook, Chegg released a version of the book that will work on all those platforms with out any apps needed. It changes the content-delivery game. Chegg can now provide an instant download while the student is waiting for his or her ordered book.  It can wrap a seven-day eRental with a semester textbook rental for students who just can’t wait for the book to arrive. The biggest question everyone had about Chegg was: “How does it sustain growth as the world moves digital?” Well, if CEO Dan Rosensweig is right and 30% of college students are using Chegg services, it is unlike any brand that has so far penetrated the college market; it is no longer a textbook company, it is no longer the “Netfilx of textbooks,” it is now a power brand that can influence student behavior.

What’s next for Chegg? The IPO?  Another acquisition? At this point it is anyone’s guess and only time will tell, but the company is poised for big doings.

14 Smart Savings Tips for College Students

This is a guest post from Andrea Woroch, consumer & money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc, who’s appeared on Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, the New York Times and more. She shares some tips for college students!

When most people think of college students, Ramen noodles, dirty laundry and all-night partying come to mind. It’s not that students desire this lifestyle; it’s simply that these are necessities, (except for the partying, of course). If you’re tired of struggling and scraping by at school, try a few of these savings tips.

1. Take Your ID Everywhere
Having a student ID is like owning a key to the city. It grants semi-exclusive access to all kinds of discounts and deals. Whether you’re going to the movies, the museum, or just out for a bite to eat, be sure you have your student ID on hand. You never know when and where it’ll save you some cash.

2. Get a Student Bank Account
Most major banks offer some kind of student account. While you’ll earn little to no interest with these accounts, they don’t have the fees and minimum balances of other accounts. It’s also a smart way to start building some credit history.

3. Rent Textbooks or Buy Used

It’s incredibly frustrating when the cashier rings up all of your textbooks and the price tag is half that of your semester’s tuition. Instead of shopping at the campus bookstore, rent textbooks or buy them used online. Check for the best deals at CampusBooks.com which collects and compares prices from Chegg, Half.com & Amazon. At the end of the year, you can sell those books back for a bit of cash.

4. Find a Job
We all play the sympathy card with parents, but let’s get real for a minute. Working 15 hours a week combined with a full class schedule  isn’t going to send you spiraling into academic failure. On-campus jobs are ideal because they’re usually simple and accommodating of school schedules. If you can sneak some homework in while on the clock, even better. To start your search, try looking into these five part-time jobs.

5. Coupons Can be Cool
With all the coupon books handed out on campus, using them won’t give you a cheapskate stigma. If you can’t find the discount you need, there are plenty of online coupons and even mobile coupons to choose from. Continue reading

A price comparison for e-books, and their lack of availability

At CampusBooks, we’ve long held that searching all of your options helps you find the best deal. That’s the whole point behind CampusBooks, and it’s why textbook comparison was a big deal for the past few years.

This year, however, is the “season of the e-book,” with Amazon Kindle Rental and apps like the Kno making the digital textbook the new big thing. I’ve talked about it extensively, and we set out to find out just how much it would “change the game.”

What we found was that, first and foremost, that Amazon Kindle Rental may have great prices, but the availability is lacking.  This got me thinking: we’ve long compared traditional textbook prices. Why is no one doing the same for e-books? Are students supposed to manually search each site, take each service’s promise of the best availability and lowest price?

That’s why I’m happy to announce that CampusBooks is now offering an e-book price comparison search. Now students can not only see who is offering their textbooks in digital form, but who has the best prices, too.

That first question, who is offering books, is an important one. We found that Amazon Kindle Rental had only 18 of the top 100 textbooks for back to school. With new access to these databases, we were able to ask: what about the top seven retailers? And the top 1000 textbooks?

We explored CourseSmart, Barnes & Noble, Kno, Textbooks.com, Cengage Brain, Amazon Kindle purchases, and eBooks.com, the seven sites students will be able to search on CampusBooks. The results? Not so good, as Mashable reiterated:

CourseSmart: 82% of the top 1000 books available

Barnes & Noble: 46.6%

Kno: 43.6%

Textbooks.com: 24.2%

Cengage Brain: 23.1%

Amazon Kindle (ebook purchases, not rental): 14.9%

eBooks.com: 0.2%

What’s the lesson here? Like I’ve said before: e-textbooks have a ways to go before they “revolutionize” the industry. These numbers will go up, sure, but for now, students have to continue to search for the best deal across all platforms.

I also thought I would add a bit of commentary on the data, to answer some questions we’ve been faced with.

1) How did you choose your list?  The data is based on the top 1000 books based on demand.  While I agree this is a limited number it should give a general picture of what is happening.

2) Why is CourseSmart so popular with these titles?  That is a great question.  Remember that CourseSmart has always had go penetration with Pearson titles and many of their titles are high demand books.

3) Do you think these numbers would hold true if you looked at more books?  I am not sure.  My guess is that while some numbers would go up, like Kno, other would go down, like CourseSmart.

4) What is your conclusion?  As stated above, the year of eBooks is upon us.  It is still to be determined if students want these books or will buy them.  Do they have the bite to go with the bark!  Students need to take time and research the books they need to see what options they have.  Only an informed student can save big money when it comes to time buying textbooks.

Our next step is to explore price comparisons, similar to the reports we’ve released in the past. It will be interesting to see if availability is tied to price, and if there are any clear leaders in the e-textbook market for both price and availability.

Guru Roundup: Special eTextbooks Rentals Edition

Business Wire: CampusBooks Finds Just 18% of Textbooks Available on Amazon’s Kindle Rental

“CampusBooks.com compared pricing data for the top 100 college textbooks against Amazon’s new Kindle Rental service, and found that Kindle Rental often has the best prices, but only 18% of the titles. Renting a Kindle book for the advertised 30-day period yielded the highest savings, often in the double-digits over traditional rental, used and new textbooks, but only five of 100 titles were available for the month-long range. The other 13 titles available had minimum periods of 60 days, and the savings were less. However, if students were to rent via Kindle for a whole semester (120 days), only half of the time was Kindle Rental cheaper than buying and selling a used book . . . ”

Time Magazine Moneyland: Educational Financing: How Much Will Students Really Save Using Amazon’s E-Textbooks?

“It’s a very frustrating part of the college experience. You pay more than $100 for a textbook, haul it home and then never open it. You turn it in at the end of the semester and get a pittance back. Heck, even if you read the book, it’s hardly a bargain. Thankfully for broke college students everywhere, Amazon is changing up the model by offering e-textbook rentals.
With the launch of Kindle Textbook Rental this Monday, the company says students may be able to save as much as 80% off textbook prices. For a fee that in some cases is about 50% of the cost to buy a used textbook or own the Kindle edition, students can rent a book for a minimum of 30 days. At the end of the those 30 days they can extend the rental for as little as one day for an additional cost or choose to purchase the book . . . ”

Yahoo News! Digital Trends: Saving Cash on College Textbooks: E-Book Rental Services Compared

“Can e-textbooks and accompanying rental services change the college publishing market? They can certainly try. Students are becoming more and more familiar with electronics and comfortable using a variety of OS platforms, and manufacturers know this. Amazon is the latest to offer an e-book rental service catering to students, but it’s hardly the first and has plenty of competitors vying for college kids’ hard-to-come-by dollars. Promises of savings and instant-accessibility are just a few of the temptations e-readers are throwing at academics, but here’s a breakdown of how a handful of these services compare . . . ”

Fierce Mobile Content: How Amazon’s Kindle Is Poised to Revolutionize Textbooks

“Because I spent my college years doing a lot of things I probably shouldn’t have been doing, I’ve retained precious few memories of my time in the hallowed halls of higher learning. One thing I do remember with absolute clarity: College textbooks are damn expensive. But when students head back to campus this fall, they’ll find a new, more affordable and more flexible option to the traditional bookstore shopping spree. Amazon.com this week launched Kindle Textbook Rental, enabling students to lease e-reader versions of tens of thousands of textbooks for as much as 80 percent off the list price . . . ”

Three Tips for Choosing an E-reader

I’ve talked a lot here about the pitfalls of e-readers, especially as of late with the Amazon Kindle Rental news. But I’m also a firm believer in the move to digital, and the usefulness of these (relatively) new tools–as long as you do it right. I have three big-picture tips here for narrowing down what to look for in an e-reader, and pick the right one for you.

Picking an e-reader shouldn’t be that hard, right? Wrong. With the Kindle and the Nook, and now the iPad, more and more of these profitable tablets have popped up all with different pros, cons and more. It’s become almost as hard as looking for your next computer.

First, know what you are looking for. If you have never had an e-reader before this could seem confusing, but think of it as choosing a phone or computer. Some important questions to think about: Do you want touch screen? How important is screen resolution to you? Do you want it to do more than read? Color or black and white? Battery life?

Second, always make sure you get a warranty. Remember these devices are fairly new, so there are still bugs and issues to be worked out, and you don’t want to be stuck with a faulty device and out of money. Plus, if you are using it to lighten your load of textbooks in college, it’s likely it will be dropped or get spilled on, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. These warranties can range from 30 days to two years and, of course, the longer, the better and safer your investment will be. 

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