Students often begin the year with heavy backpacks and empty pockets — textbooks are the third biggest cost for college students, beat only by tuition and housing.
Students have many tactics for bringing down that cost, whether it is renting books, checking them out from the library, illegally downloading PDFs, or just skipping the reading assignments.
Jeff Sherwood has a better way to cut costs. In 2001, Sherwood started BigWords.com, a site where shoppers can add all the textbooks they need to their cart. The site will create a price comparison, which comes up with the cheapest possible combination of stores and items.
“What happened was I had gone to college and realized that the bookstore situation was pretty awful,” Sherwood said. “I quickly saw that what college students really needed was a way to cut through the marketing hype to find the best prices for textbooks.”
BigWords has one mission: to stay completely in tune with the textbook market in order to help students find the cheapest copy of any book they need.
Sherwood recognizes that since he started BigWords, similar sites have popped up. However, he said that BigWords has something no one else does.
“BigWords has every item from every store. Most sites will just show you the cheapest item from each, but we have every single item, as well as a description. So if you don’t like the cheapest item, you can ignore it and the next cheapest will come up,” Sherwood said.
Other options for customizing the results include ignoring rentals and eBooks, details such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble membership, or searching only for new copies of the required books.
Some of the new features Sherwood and his team have added in the past few weeks include an update to the app, which is usable for both iPhones and Androids. It allows users to scan the barcode of any product to do a price search, as well as the addition of crowd-sourced couponing.
“Our site and app have expanded — we now support everything from textbooks to bacon,” Sherwood said.
The crowd-sourced couponing feature has been integrated into BigWords’s price comparison tool, and any site user can add coupons to help other customers save money.
Don’t want to keep those books after the semester’s ended? No problem. BigWords even includes the current buyback prices for your textbooks.
It may sound too good to be true, but Sherwood is not in this for a profit.
“We’re not selling you anything, and we don’t care where you buy your products from. We just want to help students save time and money,” Sherwood said.