Website provides textbook price comparison, offers cheaper options
After waiting in line for hours to buy expensive textbooks at his alma mater, the University of Southern California, Jeff Sherwood was motivated to find ways of making textbook shopping more affordable and convenient.
The result is the growing website, Bigwords.com, which allows students to compare textbooks from 50 online sellers at once to find the best deal.
Waiting in line highlighted the absurdity of the college bookstore monopoly on textbooks, he said, and it showed that college students need more options.
“It was obviously a rip-off that there was no other choice,” Sherwood said.
The website’s mission, he said, is to allow students to find the cheapest copy of the right book, whatever that book may be.
Textbooks are the third highest college expense, according to the Government Accountability Office. If students take advantage of all the tools and recommendations of Bigwords.com, Sherwood said, they can save up to $1,000 a year on textbooks.
Chamelia Moore, a sophomore writing major, said she would definitely use Bigwords.com in the future, after she discovered the contemporary nutrition textbook she bought on Chegg.com was less expensive through sources on Bigwords.com.
Sherwood said finding the cheapest price to buy a book means college students can save more money buying and selling their books than they can by renting them.
“We had been noticing that the buy-back value of many textbooks has been going up,” Sherwood said. “We found it can be 95 percent cheaper to buy with the idea of selling your books.”
But Syracuse University students said there are some features of Bigwords.com that make it less appealing than buying books at the SU Bookstore.
Caitlin Dolan, a freshman who already bought many of her textbooks online, said she wishes textbook shoppers could buy their books directly from Bigwords.com. Instead, books are placed in a virtual backpack, and then users must buy books from various vendors, she said.
“I like how it compares all of the other websites’ prices. It’s also easy to navigate because it shows you the cover of the book that you’ve searched.”
Matt Semione, junior biology major
Jodi Zimmerman, a junior television, radio and film major, said she is more likely to continue purchasing textbooks from the SU Bookstore because that is where certain university-produced books are available and because it is more convenient.
“I always know I will be getting the right edition, and it’s easier for me to pay for my books with my bookstore account,” Zimmerman said.
Sherwood, the founder of Bigwords.com, said he is constantly trying to find ways of making the website more reliable for students.
“It’s great to save an extra $4 on a textbook, but not at the expense of having it be the wrong book or having it not show up,” Sherwood said.
Bigwords.com removes vendors from its site that have low ratings, Sherwood said.
Sherwood also said Bigwords.com tries to stay on top of all of the newest innovations to save money on textbooks, such as offering international additions of textbooks and Amazon’s new renting feature.
Differentiating the company from sites like Amazon and Chegg by specializing in just comparing textbook prices has helped it become more successful, Sherwood said.
Matt Semione, a junior biology major who has purchased books online and from the bookstore in the past, said the site can be quite useful.
“I like how it compares all of the other websites’ prices,” Semione said. “It’s also easy to navigate because it shows you the cover of the book that you’ve searched.”
But Semione said he usually waits until after classes have started to buy books and feels it’s inconvenient to have to wait a week for books to arrive.
And though the website appears a bit low-budget, Semione said he may consider using it in the future for certain textbooks.
“It appears a bit untrustworthy at first,” he said. “But I would definitely give it a shot.”
Contact Shannon: email@example.com
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