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Using Discounted Computer Books Bookstores

(slightly skeptical advice for students
on how to avoid "university textbooks rip-off")

News Softpanorama
Books reviews
See Also Bookstores Ratings Major Internet bookstores Deep discounters Auctions
(good interface, lists tax, if any)
AAABookSearch Pricescan AddALL
Booksprice DealTime/Books
(weak interface)
(list tax, if any)
Amazon Bibliofind
Experiment 1 Experiment 2 Random Findings Humor Etc

Every programmer every system administrator, and especially a university computer science student, needs a lot of books. This page is designed to help all three categories, but might be especially useful for students as the cost of textbooks is often staggering (see rip-off 101):

Students will spend an average of $898 per year on textbooks in 2003-04, based on surveys of University of California (UC) students in the fall of 2003. This represents almost 20 percent of the average tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year colleges nationwide. In contrast, a 1997 UC survey found that students spent an average of $642 on textbooks in 1996-97.

For those who are barely can pay tuition, saving on textbooks can be an important cost-saving measure. As The Boston Globe reported in the article Textbook costs are off the charts :

The findings in a federal report released yesterday won't surprise anyone who has been to college in recent years: Textbook prices have skyrocketed, closely tracking increases in tuition and fees.

The US Government Accountability Office study, requested by Representative David Wu, an Oregon Republican, found that textbook prices have increased 6 percent a year since the academic year 1987-88 -- twice the general rate of inflation.

The average annual cost of textbooks for a student in 2003-04 was $898 at a four-year college and $886 at a two-year college, the report found. While overall prices have increased 72 percent since 1986, the report said, college tuition and fees have increased 240 percent and textbooks 186 percent. The report echoes many of the findings in a highly critical report issued last year by CALPIRG, a California consumer research group.

Unfortunately a large part of the textbook market in the USA has all signs of corrupted monopoly infested with cronyism and incompetence to the extent that Standard Oil practices looks pretty benign in comparison. As the site ( disappeared) stated on its font page:

The report, entitled, "Rip-off 101: How the Current Practices of the Publishing Industry Drive up the Cost of College Textbooks", surveyed the most widely-taught books at colleges and universities in California and Oregon and the faculty that teach those books. The report found that even though students already pay $900 year for textbooks, textbook publishers artificially inflate the price of textbooks by adding bells and whistles to the current texts, and forcing cheaper used books off the market by producing expensive new editions of textbooks that are barely different from the previous edition. The report also found that most of the faculty members surveyed in the report do not think many of these add-ons are useful and are supportive of efforts to streamline textbook costs and extend the shelf life of current textbook editions.

And some university professors are part of these scheme. Congressmen David Wu site the opinion of the publisher in his letter "If a student is paying hundreds of dollars for a book, it's because the professor has ordered the Cadillac edition". this is especially true for questionable subjects like neoclassical economics, where professions are especially greedy.

for CS any decent professor can easily find a cheaper high quality substitute from publishers like O'Reilly. And students can do this too, Softpanorama Bookshelf part of the Softpanorama site is actually about such a selection. In other disciplines like mathematics professors have almost no choice. The cost of a common calculus textbook is over $100 in the USA. This is a blatant, open rip-off. Here is another relevant quote from the Congressmen David Wu's letter:

Ronald Miech, a math professor at UCLA, countered that if he had choices in ordering textbooks, it would be news to him. "I have never heard of a scaled-back version," he said.

Indeed, he contended that he's often forced to order books that come bundled with workbooks and software that he never uses. "I've tried the software," he said. "I don't like it and I never use it. But we don't seem to have an option of buying the book without it."

Congressmen David Wu letter also contains some useful recommendations. In the meantime, enterprising students have many ways to cut the cost of buying textbooks. Among them:

Congressman David Wu letter is an important historic document and it generated some responces:

August 19, 2005

Congressman David Wu
1023 Longworth House Office
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Wu,

We support your fight for fair college textbook pricing, especially your request that the Government Accountability Office investigate the cost of college textbooks and the textbook publishing industry. The GAO report [PDF] released this week, and the media coverage it has generated, is bringing the issue the attention it deserves.

The textbook has historically been produced by a publisher who makes all the decisions about who and what gets published, and when. They set the page count and decide how a book will be bound and bundled, all of which helps determine (or inflate) the price. Everything is controlled from the top down, unlike the production and sale of other goods.

O'Reilly Media is the largest independent publisher of technology books. We work at empowering our customers and expanding the boundaries of publishing by creating web-based user communities, sponsoring conferences and publishing open content from our readers. Lately, Computer Science and Information Technology instructors have been turning to us for up-to-the-minute course material because their textbook needs are not being met through traditional academic publishing channels.

So we developed SafariU, a web-based co-publishing tool that lets instructors build their own books out of the wealth of material we've collected for them. SafariU users are free to search and select the content they want from our huge database of top-tier technology resources, creating bound textbooks and online syllabi tailored precisely to their teaching needs and their students' budgetary constraints. And the SafariU Learning Object Exchange gives instructors a forum for peer review and exchange of online syllabi and textbooks. I'm enclosing an interview with SafariU user Charles Anderson, professor at Western Oregon University.

By transferring the publisher's authority to the instructor, allowing content to be mixed and matched from multiple sources, facilitating sharing in the academic community and changing the pricing model, SafariU is turning textbook publishing on its head.

We'd like to learn more about your ongoing campaign to make college textbooks affordable and how O'Reilly can help in that effort.

Kindest regards,

Timothy F. O'Reilly
Founder & CEO
O'Reilly Media, Inc.

Now e-libraries became important tool for any student. But this is another topic. See Electronic book libraries. But here one needs to see a bigger picture: low quality of recommended textbooks makes it necessary buying additional textbooks. And here you can and should save money.

There are several ways to save on university textbooks, and with some effort you probably can save ~50% of the cover price, which is a nice saving especially if the required textbook itself is junk or semi-junk with the price around $100 (like so many university textbooks can be classified).

For price comparison of computer books I would recommend to start your search with the BookFinder4U (has info about tax) or AAABookSearch (it shows return policy and has some, potentially useful, information about coupons).

After that you can widen your search as the best price is often can be found only in a single booksearching engine and it is difficult to predict which one. Newcomer Booksprice is also pretty impressive and can be recommended. AddALL is good too and what is important it lists table of contents of the book found.

Please notice that some bookstores charge taxes to residents of particular states. BookkooB provides valuable tax information about many bookstores along with prices.

Some notes:

  1. Recently I have several successful searches using AAABookSearch. It is limited to technical books, but like any specialized search engine it can (in certain cases) provide a better price than other engines.

  2. In experiments that I made AddALL book search and price comparison was good in finding the minimum price of Unix shell books; it also provides information about coupons (that often make B&N much more competitive). That makes it attractive search engine for computer books. AAA BookSearch is also good and couple of times was able to find the best price on new books.

See also Yahoo! Book Search Services Price Comparisons for additional links to book price comparison services sites.

But sometimes you can find a better deal then via price comparison engine because of coupons and publisher website information. check Wall Mart, paradoxically it sometimes has the best price on technical books.

For rare books one can try

Every programmer every system administrator, and especially a university computer science student, needs a lot of books. This page is designed to help all three categories, but might be especially useful for students as the cost of textbooks is often staggering (see rip-off 101).

Amazon currently has a very good discount on O'Reilly books. I also recommend to check and Bookpool., sometimes has great prices too.

For O'Reilly books (in unlikely case Amazon or Bookpool have less than 25% off) the second place to try is DigitalGuru. It looks like they usually have good discount. Digital Guru is especially attractive if you prefer UPS shipping (UPS is faster. I also had a couple of books lost with USPS; you mileage can vary).

Good luck !

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov

Softpanorama Bookstore Rating


Amazon (very good prices on new O'Reilly books, other usually 25%-30% off, Amazon marketplace is very competitive and has wider selection of books then and )
2 (excellent prices for used book prices, mostly compertative with amazon)
3 Bookpool (generally very good prices on new books)
4 Alibris Buy Used Books, Used Textbooks, Rare Books, Out-of-Print & New Books
5 Selection is good and shipping on used books is lower then at Amazon 2.79 vs 3.50 at Amazon. If the same books is availble for the same price is cheaper then Amazon marketplace.
6 (sometime you can find cheap books, but selection is usually very limited and books often do not have exact ISBN -- buyer beware)
7 B&N (usually is competitive only with coupons, but has probably the largest selection of books)

Experiment 1

On April 12, 2002 I compared prices of new books for the Softpanorama mini-bookshelf. The results were:

  1. The Art of Computer Programming, Volumes 1-3 Boxed Set (see also Classic books/The Art of Computer Programming) Amazon: $149.99, All Direct's Price: $125.99
  2. The Mythical Man-Month Amazon: $29.95. The best price $23.96
  3. Rapid Development Taming Wild Software Schedules Amazon: $24.50. The best price: Bookpool $19.25
  4. The Elements of Programming Style ( search was used instead of Pricescan): Alibris: 24.90 , Barnes & Noble $ 24.95. The best price ???
  5. Essential System Administration Amazon: $27.99; Digital Guru: $27.97. The best price $25.57.
  6. Learning the Korn Shell (2nd Edition) Amazon: $31.47; Digital Guru $20.97; Bookpool: n/a The best price (1st edition):
  7. A Practical Guide to Solaris Amazon: $49.99 ; Digital Guru: $44.95. The best price $37.76);
  8. Beginning Perl Amazon: $27.99; Digital Guru: $27.99; The best price $25.59;
  9. Beginning XHTML Amazon: $27.99; Digital Guru: $27.99; The best price $25.59.
  10. Beginning JavaScript Amazon: $27.99; Digital Guru: $27.99; The best price $25.59.
  11. C by Example Amazon: $24.99; Digital Guru: $17.49; The best price $9.99
  12. Mastering Turbo Assembler (AddALL and search was used instead of Pricescan): eCampus $ 33.75 Booksamillion $ 45.00 The best price $20.99

Experiment 2

On August 14, 2005 I repeated experiment 1 (compared prices of new books for the Softpanorama mini-bookshelf) using BookFinder4U. An interesting result is that Walmark became very competitive with Amazon as for new books. The second one is that often beats Amazon marketplace for used books.

  1. The Art of Computer Programming, Volumes 1-3 Boxed Set (see also Classic books/The Art of Computer Programming) The main surprise was that Wal-Mart $97.70 + 2.98 beats Amazon $103.94+0 (the last column represents the list of states that charge tax for mail orders from the store):
    Walmart In Stock 97.70 2.98 100.68 New AR CA CO GA MS NY OH UT
    In Stock 98.10 3.49 101.59 New ---
    Amazon Usually ships in 24 hours 103.94 0.00 103.94 [offer] New ND WA
    Superbookdeals In Stock 101.61 3.69 105.30 New ---

  2. The Mythical Man-Month Amazon: $23.09. This book should be bought new. In Stock 14.99 2.79 17.78 New/Used PA
    In Stock 15.00 3.49 18.49 Used ---
    Alibris In Stock 18.95 3.49 22.44 [offer] New/Used CA MI NV
    Abebooks In Stock 20.00 3.00 23.00 Used ---
    In Stock 19.64
    3.49 23.13 New ---
    In Stock 20.25
    club price
    3.99 24.24 [offer] Used NJ NV NY PA SC TN WI FL MA
    Walmart In Stock 21.70 2.98 24.68 New AR CA CO GA MS NY OH UT

  3. Rapid Development Taming Wild Software Schedules

    Abebooks In Stock 11.25
    3.50 14.75 Used ---
    Biblio In Stock 11.27 3.50 14.77 Used ---
    A1books In Stock 11.75
    3.29 15.04 Used NJ In Stock 13.00
    2.79 15.79 New/Used PA
    Alibris In Stock 12.45 3.49 15.94 [offer] New/Used CA MI NV
    In Stock 12.50 3.49 15.99 Used ---
    In Stock 16.99
    3.49 20.48 New ---

  4. The Elements of Programming Style only used is available:

    In Stock 13.50 3.49 16.99 Used ---
    Alibris In Stock 14.43 3.49 17.92 [offer] New/Used CA MI NV
    Abebooks In Stock 14.48 3.50 17.98 Used --- In Stock 20.00 2.79 22.79 New/Used PA
    Powells Ships in 1 to 3 days 19.95 3.50 23.45 [offer] Used ---

  5. Essential System Administration This book value considerably deteriorated since 2002 and it does not make sense to buy it new.
    A1books In Stock 15.85 3.29 19.14 Used NJ
    In Stock 15.79 3.49 19.28 Used ---
    Biblio In Stock 15.85 3.50 19.35 Used --- In Stock 17.00
    2.79 19.79 New/Used PA

  6. Learning the Korn Shell (2nd Edition) The second edition proved to be weaker then the first and it does not make sense to buy it new. :
    A1books In Stock 15.85
    3.29 19.14 Used NJ
    In Stock 15.79
    3.49 19.28 Used ---
    Biblio In Stock 15.85
    3.50 19.35 Used --- In Stock 17.00
    2.79 19.79 New/Used PA
    Powells Ships in 1 to 3 days 26.50
    3.50 30.00 [offer] Used ---
    Abebooks In Stock 27.48
    3.00 30.48 Used ---
    Halfvalue Usually ships within 2 business days 27.48
    3.50 30.98 New/Used ---
    In Stock 28.22
    3.49 31.71 New ---
    Overstock Check Site 32.74
    1.40 34.14 [offer] New UT
  7. A Practical Guide to Solaris 15.00 + 2.79 =17.79 New/Used
  8. Beginning Perl also does not make sense to buy new anymore:
    8.95 + 3.49 = 12.44
  9. Beginning XHTML 6.00 2.79 8.79 New/Used
  10. Beginning JavaScript In Stock 2.90 + 2.79 = 5.69 New/Used
  11. C by Example
    Alibris In Stock 4.37 + 3.49 = 7.86
  12. Mastering Turbo Assembler
  13. In Stock 5.00 + 2.79 = 7.79
    In Stock 5.75 + 3.49 = 9.24

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Old News ;-)

[Sep 10, 2016] Higher Education Faculty News As Free Textbooks Go Mainstream, Advocate Says Colleges Should Do More to Support Them

Notable quotes:
"... In June, 38 community colleges announced plans to make free online materials standard in every course in some degree programs as part of a new effort coordinated by Achieving the Dream. Just a few weeks later, Gov. Jerry Brown of California, a Democrat, signed a 2016-17 budget that includes $5 million for community colleges in the state to create their own ZTC degrees ..."
"... Hal Plotkin, a longtime advocate of open education resources, or OER, says the moves could eventually save students billions of dollars. As he argued in a recent commentary, California's new ZTC program is "easily the most ambitious state-level effort to promote the use of OER in public higher education to date." ..."
Jul 12, 2016 |

The Chronicle of Higher Education By Goldie Blumenstyk July 12, 2016

It's been a big few weeks for the movement to replace commercial textbooks with free online materials, thanks to the sudden rise of something called the Zero Textbook Cost degree.

In June, 38 community colleges announced plans to make free online materials standard in every course in some degree programs as part of a new effort coordinated by Achieving the Dream. Just a few weeks later, Gov. Jerry Brown of California, a Democrat, signed a 2016-17 budget that includes $5 million for community colleges in the state to create their own ZTC degrees.

Hal Plotkin, a longtime advocate of open education resources, or OER, says the moves could eventually save students billions of dollars. As he argued in a recent commentary, California's new ZTC program is "easily the most ambitious state-level effort to promote the use of OER in public higher education to date."

Yet while cheering both the California and Achieving the Dream initiatives, Mr. Plotkin, a senior open-policy fellow at Creative Commons USA, argues that college leaders could and should be doing far more to promote the use of free, openly licensed materials, to prevent publishers from treating students "like walking cash registers."

Go to the full article.

[Jul 14, 2016] SuperSummary

Summaries of great novells. for example here is preview of Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby, despite its brevity, is typically viewed as one of the most artistically successful American novels of any period. Sadly, it is widely known that F. Scott Fitzgerald benefited very little from this novel financially, and died thinking it a failure in terms of public and critical opinion.

Gatsby has to do with a small cast of characters living on Long Island a few years after the end of WWI. This is a period of great expansion and prosperity prior to the Great Depression. It is also the era of Prohibition, when liquor was illegal in America and yet vast sums were made by those willing to break the law to feed the public need for alcohol.

The novel begins when the narrator, Nick Carraway, moves to Long Island after returning from the Great War. Although he is from the Midwest, he feels restless after the war, and believes that the East Coast is more interesting and exciting than his original home.

After he locates to the fictional town of "West Egg" and begins his job as a bond salesman, Nick becomes reacquainted with a distant cousin, Daisy, and her husband, Tom Buchanan. Both are from very wealthy families, and Tom is a successful businessman. Nick also meets their friend, Jordan Baker, a professional female golfer. Tom and Daisy live on East Egg, the more prestigious counterpart to West Egg. It turns out that Tom has mistress, Myrtle Wilson, the wife of a gas station and car dealership owner.

The other important person that Nick meets is Jay Gatsby, his neighbor. Gatsby is extremely rich and holds lavish parties at his home, but has few close friends. He invites Nick to one of his parties, and they become acquainted. Jordan approaches Nick to inform him that Gatsby and Daisy were once romantically involved, and asks Nick's assistance in facilitating a reunion.

Gatsby and Daisy begin an affair, and soon it becomes apparent to Tom. He despises Gatsby, and informs Daisy that Gatsby is a criminal. This is indeed true: Gatsby is not from a family with money, but instead a self-made alcohol smuggler from a modest Midwestern family. After the revelation, Daisy and Gatsby drive away, and Daisy runs over Myrtle by accident.

The two do not stop the car, and later Tom convinces a distraught Wilson that Gatsby drove the car. Wilson pursues Gatsby and murders him, then commits suicide. None of Gatsby's party guests, nor any of his criminal associates, attend his funeral. Disillusioned, Nick makes up his mind to return to the Midwest.

[Aug 15, 2005] Beccary " Book Closeouts

Are you familiar with It's free well, virtually, depends on if you want someone to send a book to you and if they're willing to pay to send it. If you don't already have an account there, you should get one. silent-lucidity is my username� you're welcome to browse my bookshelf (not sure if i'm allowed to include a link in comments so i won't� but if you search for my username you'll get there ) and see if there's anything you want. the one's marked "available" i still have in my possession and can send to you. it's mostly romance novels right now (because i got tired of them laying around and me not reading them), but there's a couple just general fiction books in there too. And obviously, you can browse around and find books from other users. Hope that helps.

[Aug 14, 2005] WeFindCheapBooks

An interesting newcomer that has very quick search. The result of search are well organized has visual appeal (booksellers represented by nice icons) and also provide innovative popup with the interesting information about the location of the server. During my checks using "Softpanorama Classic Books List" I noticed that prices for Amazon are not current and need rechecking (probably cashed for speed). But generally the prices found were one of the lowest available (within the shipping cost approximation limits).

[Aug 10, 2005] FetchBook - New & Used Books - Find the Lowest Price

An interesting newcomer. Searches are pretty quick and the results are high quality.

[Apr 21, 2005] Books Price - Multiple Book Price Comparison

Another newcomer. Can help if you are trying to buy several books simultaneously. a free innovative service of finding the best price on a purchase of several books together. This service is more useful than the standard services which perform one book comparison at a time, and can save more money when buying several books together. Since Architecture books can be very expensive, I am sure that our services can be very important to you visitors.

BookkooB - Compare book prices in the US

new price comparison service...

Developing open alternatives

An Onerous Coward (222037) on Friday January 30, @08:17PM (#8140884)

Here are some links I dredged up last time this subject rolled through.

Wiki Textbooks []
Light and Matter []: Open physics textbooks.
An open math textbook []
Project Gutenberg [], for all the English majors out there.

There are also a lot of books out there which are freely downloadable, but not modifiable. Has anyone here used a free (in either sense) textbook as their primary learning tool in a college class? If so, what was your experience?

New & Used Books - Find the lowest price

Interesting site the provides thumbnails along with found books. Sometimes it is able to find bargains unavailable to competing services (try, for example, Laura Lemay, or Mark Sobell and compare with a couple other servises).

Used Textbooks College Textbooks Used College Text Books - Book Byte Textbook very good prices on colledge textbooks !

Search for the list of discounted O'Reilly books, and the list C++ books. some decent books (Delphi) can be found among $1.99 bargains. Bargain Books - Book Store - Book Sale


Prices close to Amazon but with cheaper shipping charges. Cheap UPS rate.

Book search and book price comparison - AAABookSearch

Somebody send me this link. I tested it on Donald Knuth Art of computer programming 3 volumes boxed set (Published On: October 1998 ISBN: 0201485419) and was pretty impressed. It does make sense to use this site. In this search it has found a minimum price that was lower both Bublos and Pricescan by $20 !. The site is slow. Compare Real-Time Book Prices And Buy Books Cheaper

pretty interesting price comparison engine with links to rare books. DigitalGuru periodically is offering up to 20% of all PH PTR tiles. Get 15% to 25% off Prentice Hall/PTR titles from Readme.doc!

Application Compares Prices of Online Booksellers --March 26 1999

The question of who owns the title of the Earth's cheapest bookstore may soon be answered, with Friday's launch of "">, Inc.'s free application that enables users to compare book prices of rival online bookstores.

The tool allows users to compare prices at, and

With the click of a corner screen icon, bibliophiles can see prices comparisons displayed in their active browser window. Dubbed The PriceSlicer, the add-on can be downloaded free and works with more than a quarter million book titles on sale at the three book-tailers. The icon is installed on the Windows desktop next to the clock in the lower right hand corner of the screen.

The Princeton, N.J.-based company said it does not have business relationships with the booksellers. It also plans to support additional products and e-commerce sites within the next few weeks.

[Jan 20, 1999.] Trouble in the by Craig Bicknell,

There's a new business model creeping into Web retailing that could spell trouble for Net superstars like
Wired News

Well, here's the idea: If enough people come to your Web site to buy whatever you're selling at a loss, you can still make money by selling ad space on the site. Computer retailer Onsale unveiled just such a plan Tuesday, dubbed Onsale atCost., which competes directly with Amazon in book, music, and video sales, has a similar business blueprint. "It's still too early to tell whether this is a flash in the pan or the beginning of a massive tidal wave," said Derek Brown, an analyst at Volpe Brown Whelan. Read the full article:

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