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Considering eTextbooks? Try a Free Trial

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Being able to download textbooks from the Internet saves you from the time and hassle it takes getting textbooks at the college bookstore. This form of textbook not only costs less, but is much easier to carry around. Now you can experience the ease and convenience of studying with eTextbooks for free.

CourseSmart is offering a free trial to those who wish to try out eTextbooks. CourseSmart is the largest provider of eTextbooks with a great selection that includes over 90% of the core textbooks in use today.

Simply head on over to CourseSmart and search for your textbook by Title or ISBN. Once you have selected your book, click on the ‘Start Free Trial’ button.

Free Trial from CourseSmart

You'll have free access to the online version of the eTextbook for 14 days or 50 page views, whichever comes first (An Internet connection is required anytime one wishes to view the online version of the eTextbook). When the free trial ends, you can purchase a subscription to the eTextbook if you wish to continue using it.

This free trial provides a great opportunity for students who have yet to use eTextbooks by giving them a chance to test the usability of digital textbooks. Some students will appreciate the convenience of using eTextbooks, while other students may find they still prefer traditional print textbooks when studying.

Other Details
To receive the free trial you will have to create a CourseSmart account. Registration requires a valid credit card to verify that you qualify for the free trial offer. A temporary $1 fee will be authorized to your credit card but no permanent charge from CourseSmart will appear on your bill for your participation in the Free Trial offer.

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Amazon Kindle Textbook Rentals

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Today, announced the launch of Kindle Textbook Rentals, a new service that claims to save students up to 80% off the list price of a print textbook. The eTextbooks can be downloaded immediately after purchase and renters can choose their rental period (any length between 30 and 360 days), so you only need to pay for the time you actually need the book, rather than set intervals. Tens of thousands of titles will be available for the upcoming school year in the Fall. Check them out at

Amazon Kindle Textbook Rentals
Renters can rent textbooks any length between 30 and 360 days

Prices Compared to Other Textbook Renters

At first glance, prices for textbook rentals on Amazon do seem affordable. When compared to other book renters, Amazon sits close to the top third when ranked by lowest cost, according to a recent study we did to find the cheapest textbook retailers. (The cheapest place we found to get textbook rentals was at, who rent out textbooks in their traditional form, rather than digital.)

We also found eTextbook rentals on Amazon to be much cheaper than (eTextbook) market leader, though CourseSmart does have more titles available in the digital format.

Other features of the Amazon Kindle Textbook Rental Program:

  • Easily extend any rental period in increments as small as one day.

  • Students can choose to purchase the book they are renting at any time.

  • When rental period ends, you still get to keep any annotations and highlighted content made in the book. These notes are made available in the Amazon Cloud and are available anytime, anywhere.

  • Kindle textbook rentals can also be read on other devices with free Kindle Reading Apps for PC, Mac, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Android-based devices.
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Laptop with All-Day Battery Life: Imagine the Possibilities

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What would you do with a laptop that had all-day battery life? Where would you go? What study environment would you choose? Where would you take your work?

While most would probably say the beach, we didn’t think sand and water would be a good fit for our new toy (don’t get us wrong, we love the beach). So, we took our day out to what we considered the next best thing…an amazing view of the ocean from up top.

We’d soak up the sun in this study spot (soon to be mentioned in an upcoming CampusGrotto ranking of the most beautiful study locations) at Pepperdine University with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.

Studying at Pepperdine with the Sony Vaio
Imagine being able to study here all day without the worry of being plugged in. Image: CampusGrotto

The new Sony S Series claims to provide up to 15 hours of battery life, which would be a godsend to any student. Preliminary tests by firsthand users are already showing impressive results on performance and have users raving about the long-lasting battery.

While you probably shouldn't be on a laptop for 15 straight hours, it’s good to know that this type of battery life is possible without having to carry around plugin adapters that take up space and add weight to our bags. It's peace of mind knowing one doesn’t have to worry about battery life or their battery dying on them.

Our first full day using the laptop we were able to get just over 14 hours of battery life on the Sony VAIO with the sheet battery attached (see pic below). This was accomplished by using the 'Power Saver' power plan, setting the switchable graphics from Speed to Stamina mode, and setting the screen brightness to a low, but tolerable setting.

Sony VAIO with sheet battery

What would you do with all-day mobility?
Share your story and Enter to Win.

Do want to experience the luxury of all-day mobility? Here’s your chance. Share or tell your story of what you would do with a laptop (equipped with a battery) that lasted all day. Head over to the Windows Experience Blog, who is teaming up with Sony, to giveaway a brand new Sony S Series laptop.

Enter to win a Sony VAIO S series PC and a sheet battery.

To enter contest post a comment on this blog post about what you would do with your laptop if you were unplugged from the wall all day. You can also enter by sending the answer via Twitter to @windows using the #15hoursbatt hashtag. Winner will be chosen at random from all qualifying entries. Contest runs until July 17th at 7:00 PM PT.

Contest Details. Rules.

For those who don’t win, you can still get half off a sheet battery via Sony’s special offer: Students can get the sheet battery for free with the purchase of a VAIO S.

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Foodbot Helps College Students Find Free Food

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Imagine going five months without having to pay for food. Sounds like a dream come true for most on a typical student budget. Greg Woloschyn, a computer science major from Carnegie Mellon University, made it happen and now he’s sharing his tricks with a program he wrote for his new website, Food-Bot.

The Food-bot website currently lists free food events at 12 universities and is slowly expanding to other schools. (You can put in a request to get your school added here.)

Each school with a page on Food-bot has a main page that lists upcoming free food events in calendar format. There are one of two ways free food events get placed on the site: student groups can post event information manually or the Food-bot program searches upcoming events at the school, extracts free food event information, and posts it on the website.

Foodbot Screenshot
Food-bot lists upcoming free food events on the calendar

How it Started

When Greg was first searching for free food events he created a Gmail account and subscribed to several thousand mailing lists on campus. Using email filters, he was able to delete every email that didn’t contain a food-related word. The inbox was then left with emails that potentially contained events providing free food. This idea became the basis for the making of Food-bot.

Being a computer science major he knew there had to be an easier way. By applying complicated formulas he created a program that scans through all incoming emails, determines the probability of the document belonging to a particular category (free food or non-free food), and places each event classified as free food into a database that is displayed on the Food-bot website.

The program assigns ratings to each event listing on the level of food quality (steak, Jimmy John’s, and Chipotle get a 10), time commitment, and awkwardness for those who may attend. (If the event is an ethnic or religious meet up, it could be more awkward to come just for the food.)

While he realizes Food-bot isn’t completely perfect at finding free food on campus, it has helped students at 12 colleges find free food.

Food-bot currently lists free food events for the following colleges:
Carnegie Mellon
UC Berkeley
Case Western
Johns Hopkins

The free food site has been getting some recognition. It won Carnegie Mellon’s Smiley Award back in March, which recognizes the best student development in technology that helps communication among people.

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Be ‘Charged and Ready’ this fall with the new Sony VAIO S-series

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Sony just launched its new VAIO S-series laptop (available for purchase starting June 19) and it’s something that is already being considered as one of the top laptops for back to school.

We just got our hands on a Sony VAIO VPC-SB11FX/W notebook for review and will be using it on a daily basis over the next few weeks and reporting on its performance over the long haul.

White Sony VAIO S-Series

At first glance, the VAIO S-series does seem to be a solid choice for students looking for a laptop for the upcoming school year. The notebook is built from magnesium and aluminum making it super lightweight and durable and perfectly portable at just 3.8 lbs. with a thin 1” profile. The backlit keyboard allows work to be done in dim/dark environments which can prove useful in classrooms and dorm-type environments.

Perhaps the greatest feature of this device is the mobility that can be obtained thanks to the notebook design and battery technology. The standard battery of the S Series is integrated into the laptop and can provide up to 7.5 hours of battery life. When coupled with the all new large capacity sheet battery (see pic below) battery life is doubled. The 15-hour battery makes this an ideal notebook for college and graduate students and others who need all-day mobility.

Sony VAIO with sheet battery

As far as cost, the new VAIO S-series starts at $899, which is a bargain for a high-end laptop. Check them out at


  • 2nd generation Intel® Core™ i5 technology
  • Dedicated AMD graphics - AMD Radeon™ HD 6470M dedicated graphics card with 512MB of VRAM
  • Intel® Wireless Display
  • Processor Speed: 2.30GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology up to 2.90GHz
  • 4GB memory
  • Storage Capacity: 500GB
  • Windows® 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Software: Microsoft® Office Starter, Adobe® Creative Software: Adobe Acrobat® Standard 9.0, Adobe Photoshop® Elements 8.0, Adobe Premiere® Elements 8.0
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Durable magnesium alloy casing
  • 13.3” (1366 x 768) widescreen display w/ LED backlight to ensure a bright display while conserving battery power.
  • Dimensions: 13.04" (W) x 0.95" (H) x 8.84" (D)
  • Weight: 3.80 lbs. (with Standard Battery)

The new VAIO S-series seems very comparable to the MacBook Pro, with the VAIO being thinner, lighter, more affordable, and available in multiple colors. Ordering through the Sony education store (with .edu email account) can get you 10% off the price of the laptop and service plan. The current ‘Charged and Ready’ deal at the Sony education store provides you with a free extended sheet battery (to give you up to 15 hours battery life) with the purchase of a new VAIO® S Series laptop. The Sony ‘Charged and Ready’ program lasts until July 17th.

For more info visit

Note: This post is part of program called "Charged and Ready" by Sony Electronics and Microsoft, where a group of college bloggers have been given a Sony VAIO S-series laptop to test and review.

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Free Textbooks

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If you are looking to get your traditional textbooks for free, be sure to check your college library or borrow from a friend. Even if the library doesn’t have it, they may have an older version that will be pretty much the same, though page numbers may be slightly off and the chapters may be moved around in an effort to make the book appear different.

However, what this article covers is textbooks that are considered to be “free” and “open”: Open Textbooks. This relatively new form of course material is gaining awareness and could totally disrupt the $8.212 billion college textbook market with the proper adoption and execution.

What are Open Textbooks?

Free Textbooks

Open textbooks are typically authored by experts in academia and published on the Internet, enabling free online access to the textbook. With open textbooks students can read the full text free online, download a printable PDF, or purchase a hard copy at a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks.

They are considered “open” because of the Creative Commons license they are typically given, which enables instructors to edit and customize textbook content to their liking to better fit course content by removing unneeded chapters and/or adding new material. These free textbooks aren’t just thrown together course lectures either, these are academically reviewed and edited, legitimate textbooks.

Open means groups and individuals can edit and improve the textbook. In this process errors in the book can be easily found and fixed, in a much easier process than traditional so-called reliable texts. There are many free textbooks available in this open format that can rival many $150 textbooks. These books have been tried and tested in multiple classrooms, peer-reviewed, and have received feedback and collaboration on improving the text and keeping it updated.

With the emergence of portable reading devices like the iPad and Nook, open textbooks can be used at no cost to the student. Open textbooks can also be accessed via laptop, and since most college students already have a laptop computer, it makes since to make the push into this relatively new form of textbook.

Why Open Textbooks?

Scott McNealy, founder of Curriki, an online hub for free textbooks and other course material, said it best: “We are spending $8 billion to $15 billion per year on textbooks… It seems to me we could put that all online for free.”

Each student on average spends about $1000 per year on textbooks. With your average textbook selling for $175 new, it is evident how these freely available textbooks would greatly help any cash-strapped student. An open textbook brings quality and value to the classroom.

Even non-students should be supporting open textbooks. More affordable textbooks could mean taxpayer savings. The State spends millions of dollars every year on financial aid, some of which pays for textbooks.

Adoption of open textbooks will produce a better quality product than traditional texts. Open contribution will result in higher quality production thanks to the collaboration of many minds in the academic arena.

The current textbook market is dominated by 5 major companies, so there’s very little competition on price. Open textbooks hope to reshape the captive market of textbook publishing and aim to create “a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge”.

Where to get Free (Open) Textbooks

Flat World Knowledge

Flat World Knowledge

Flat World Knowledge offers peer-reviewed and edited, highly developed textbooks written by expert authors and makes them available free online, affordable offline, open-licensed, and customizable by educators. Adoption of a Flat World Knowledge textbook is easy: educators search Flat World’s catalog, request a review copy or review the book online, complete an online adoption form, and provide the online textbook URL to students. Students then choose their preferred format of the textbook (online, print, audio, PDF).

The textbooks are open for modifying, if the instructor would like to customize the text for their own course. The textbooks can be customized using Flat World’s “build-a-book” platform which puts educators in control of the textbook. Educators can drag-and-drop chapters into a new table of contents that fits the course syllabus, add or delete chapters, paragraphs, sentences, examples and more. When teachers are done, a special URL is created specifically for the textbook. The book is then freely accessible to students online.

Don’t want to read online?
While Flat World textbooks are free to read online, options are available for students who wish to own a hard copy. Starting at $24.95, users can download a PDF file of the textbook and print themselves. For $34.95, Flat World ships a basic black-and-white version of the book. Paying $69.90 gives users a full-color edition of the book in its original format, which is more affordable than a traditional textbook that (on average) sells for $175. Other alternative formats and supplements include POD editions, e-books (in epub, .mobi and PDF formats), audio books, purchase of individual chapters, and study aids, such as interactive quizzes and flashcards.

The focus of many of the textbooks in the Flat World Catalog are introductory “101”-type textbooks, but more advanced course materials are scheduled for publishing. According to a recent press release, more than 1,600 professors at over 900 colleges have used Flat World textbooks, ranging from Cornell University to Columbus State Community College to California State University. 100,000 students will use Flat World Knowledge textbooks in the 2010-2011 academic year.

Bookboon provides free textbooks that can be downloaded (without registration) in PDF making the books easily accessible and/or printable for use offline. The books do include advertisements (about on every third page) to help pay for the production costs of the book. Most of the books are in subjects related to engineering, information technology, economics, and finance.



MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching) is a free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share learning materials and methods. Their peer-reviewed online learning materials include a collection of over 900 open textbooks.



Connexions is a place to view and share educational material made of small learning sets called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports and more. Connexions is one of the most popular open education websites with content from all over the world in a variety of languages. Its 17,000+ learning modules and over 1000 collections (textbooks, journal articles, etc.) are used by over 2 million people per month. Materials are easily downloadable to almost any device for use. You can view content over the internet for free, download free PDFs for use offline, or download free EPUB versions of the content for use on e-readers and mobile phones. Schools can also order low-cost hard copies of the textbook.

MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare

In 2002, MIT put its entire course catalog online and gave a jump-start to the global Open Educational Resources movement. This year they are celebrating 10 years of service and OpenCourseWare materials have now been accessed by over 100 million individuals. While the majority of the content on MIT OCW is web-based publication of MIT courses (2,035 as of December 2010) and materials, the site also contains complete textbooks written by MIT professors.

The Orange Grove

The Orange Grove

A project of the State of Florida, the Orange Grove is a searchable and well organized repository of open textbooks and other digital resources. You can download the textbooks in PDF (free), or purchase a low-cost print version of the textbook. The Orange Grove has a collection of over 250+ open textbooks.

The Global Text Project

Global Text Project

The Global Text Project has a library of dozens of open textbooks and out-of-print books with open licenses. Hosted by the University of Georgia's Terry School of Business, most of the books are available for free as a PDF download. Their goal is to make textbooks available to those who cannot afford them, and for those who use the books (instructors and students) to actively engage in improving the quality of the open textbook.

College Open Textbooks

College Open Textbooks

Their goal is to raise the awareness and adoptions of open textbooks among community college instructors, students, authors, and state legislators. They provide training for instructors adopting open textbooks, write reviews of open textbooks (over 100+), and mentor professional networks that provide support for authors who open their material. They help point educators in the right direction by providing a guide for adopting and by providing reviews and links to widely available open textbooks, viewable by subject.



Wikibooks is a collection of open-content textbooks in many diverse areas that anyone can edit. Wikibooks contains textbooks, annotated texts, instructional guides, and manuals. These materials can be used in a traditional classroom, a home-school environment, as part of a Wikiversity course, or for self-learners.

OER Commons

OER Commons

Many open educational resources (OER) can be found on the Internet. Sometimes, finding those resources can be a difficult, time-consuming process. The OER Commons website was created to organize these resources to help educators and students quickly and easily find Open Educational Resources posted on the Internet. The site is a structured database of links to high-quality resources found on other websites and contains full university courses complete with readings, videos of lectures, homework assignments, lecture notes, interactive mini-lessons, and peer-reviewed open textbooks. OER Commons provides a single point of access through which teachers and students can search, browse, evaluate, and discuss open resources.

The Online Books Page

The Online Books Page is an extensive catalog listing more than 1 million free books on the web, including textbooks. The site is hosted by the University of Pennsylvania library.

Project Gutenburg

Project Gutenburg

Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free ebooks. Michael Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg, invented eBooks in 1971. The site has over 33,000 books you can download for free and read on your computer, iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, iPhone, Android or other portable device. Formats include ePub, Kindle, HTML and simple text formats. While you may not find too many textbooks listed, we wanted to include Project Gutenburg in this list because of its extensive collection of free books, as many well known classics can be accessed.



Primarily meant for research, Questia is the first online library that provides access to the world's largest online collection of learning materials in the humanities and social sciences. The site contains a full-text online library with over 77,000 copyrighted books in its database, as well as newspaper, magazine, and journal articles. This is content that is typically not available elsewhere on the Internet. You can search each and every word of all of the works in the collection and can read and access every book cover to cover.

To complement the library, Questia offers a range of search, note-taking, and writing tools. These tools help students locate the most relevant information on their topics quickly, quote and cite correctly, and create properly formatted footnotes and bibliographies automatically.

Free K-12 Textbooks

This article is dedicated to finding free college textbooks. However, free K-12 level textbooks can still be found at a few of the open textbook depositories listed on this page. Those looking for free digital textbooks in K-12 should also check and for customizable, standards-aligned textbooks that conform to national and state textbook standards.

Free Textbooks By Subject

A few notable links to websites dedicated to providing a free and open textbook in a certain subject:
Science & Math
Computer and math books
Intro to Calculus
Linear Algebra
Many others can be found by searching the OER Commons.

The Move to Digital Textbooks
One out of four college textbooks will be digital by 2015. We have reached a tipping point where the table is set for the movement to digital textbooks. With record sales of devices and readers like the iPad, now is the time to make that move. And if we move fast enough, we can get the use of free open textbooks established before major textbook publishers take over the digital market with their DRM, you-can-only-view-the-textbook-on-your-device-for-so-long, used-textbook market killer: the eTextbook.

What you can do

Spread the word
Students should take action against high textbook prices by spreading the word about open textbooks on campus and with faculty. Tell your professors to join thousands of other teachers who are advocating the use of open textbooks by signing the Faculty Statement on Open Textbooks. Take action: tell your teachers, print and share this article, share it on facebook and Twitter.

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Best Time to Sell your Textbooks

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The biggest part of the year for textbook buyback is five weeks between April and May. Timing when to sell your textbooks during that span can be a surprising difference in the price you get for your books. Knowing the supply and demand of textbooks during this period can earn savvy students more cash.

In the Spring of 2010, compiled textbook buyback data for this buyback period and published the results for all to see. The study compared the buyback prices of 20 various textbooks over a five week span, focusing on the five weeks between April and May when most students sell back their books.

The report found:

  • Search volume and average price were opposed. The weeks of May 2-8 and May 9-15, the “peak” of the (2010) buyback season, saw huge search volume, and at the same time, the lowest average prices. Meaning: as more students searched for the buyback price of a textbook, the amount offered from the buyback website was at its lowest.
  • The highest average prices offered for textbooks (as well as many of the highest overall) were seen in the week after the rush.
  • Choosing the right time to sell a textbook can result in getting up to 11% more for the book.
  • Your best bet is to sell at the beginning or at the end of this 5-week buyback period. The best times to sell textbooks are at the beginning of April, for consistency, or the end of May, for the highest prices.

Average Textbook Buyback Price
Average buyback price during 5-week buyback period

Number of students looking to sell a textbook over 5-week span

Study Conclusion

Overall, the data showed that the highest prices were offered once the rush to sell textbooks was over (toward the end of May). In some cases, holding on to the book until the start of the next semester may be worth the risk. At that point in time the demand for the textbook will be much higher while the supply will start to decrease. Obviously you wouldn’t want to do this if a new edition was set to come out. You can typically search for future editions of the textbook as the site will typically show the planned publication date for the next edition.

Even if buyback sites are offering little or no money for your textbook (often because they are overstocked), there may still be demand for your book. Jeff Cohen of suggests, “While you might not get cash from a buyback site you can possibly sell the book on a marketplace and earn even more."

Other tips from Jeff Cohen:

  1. If you plan to sell textbooks back on campus do so on the very first day of buyback. You may not get the highest price, but the data shows that the highest average price is during that period. It’s the safest bet, for sure.
  2. Ask the bookstore if the book will be used for the next semester, if they tell you "no" then you are most likely getting a wholesale or internet price. Wholesale books will go back to a central distribution center and then sold to another school. Internet retail prices are purchased for resale over the internet. Both are a lower value buyback than a retail book that will stay on your campus and be used the next semester.

Get textbook buyback quotes at sites like Chegg, eCampus, and CampusBooks.

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