Website helps save money on course books


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Photo by Tian Li |

BIGWORDS.com allows students to compare textbook prices all over the web. It also tells students the difference between textbook rental and purchasing prices.


When purchasing textbooks, students have the option of visiting a website that compares prices from all over the web in order to find the cheapest textbook available. In addition to this, BIGWORDS.com tells students if it is cheaper to rent or buy a textbook.

Jeff Sherwood, CEO of BIGWORDS.com, said his site compares books sold by sites like Amazon, textbooks.com and eBay.

“There were several competing businesses selling textbooks,” Sherwood said. “We wanted to cut through the marketing hype and create a single source that would compare prices from everywhere at once.”

Students can enter in the International Standard Book Number of the textbook they need on BIGWORDS.com, and the site generates a list of prices from different sites to find the lowest price possible for a given book.

Sherwood said BIGWORDS.com also tells students the buyback value for their textbooks at the end of the semester.

He said he created an algorithm to determine the buyback value that looks at a number of factors, such as book condition and the age of the book, to predict what it should be worth at the end of the semester when students sell back their books.

Because of this feature, students can determine the best way to purchase their textbooks, he said.

Sherwood began his price-comparing website in Maryland in 2001.

With a growing company and a desire to be closer to the technology industry, he moved to Newport Beach, Calif. last year.

Three employees are based in California, with other offices of the company stretched across the nation in places such as New York and Florida. BIGWORDS.com also has street teams based in universities all over the country.

Ashmore Bodiford, the BIGWORDS.com national street team manager, said street teams are present in more than 250 universities, with Rutgers being one of them.

“Street teams go on campus and hand out marketing materials letting students know about BIGWORDS,” she said.

BIGWORDS.com chooses to form street teams at universities based on the university’s enrollment and campus size, he said, preferring to form teams at schools who have higher enrollment.

“Rutgers is always in one of the top five campuses that use BIGWORDS.com, and in some semesters, it’s been the most popular,” Sherwood said.

The team hands out beer pong balls, bags and flyers to advertise to students. BIGWORDS.com representatives go to classes around campus to hand out these materials.

They also send out emails to professors letting them know about BIGWORDS.com deals so they can take that into consideration when assigning textbooks and advising students where to buy them.

To further create a relationship with students, Bodiford said he began managing the website’s blog that consists of posts meant to be of interest to college students.

“I’m doing a post about Valentine’s day. There’s one about dorm necessities and how to find cheap, cool stuff to decorate your room,” she said. “There’s even a post on how to plan a tailgating party.”

BIGWORDS.com is active across many social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. There is an app for the website that anyone can download for free.

Students can use the website for free, and BIGWORDS.com does not actually sell products. The site is meant to direct students to the books they need at the lowest prices.

The website also finds coupons and other deals that these sites offer at any given time, Bodiford said.

“It’s crazy how much students can save,” he said. “Students wait in these super long lines forever at bookstores. They feel like they’re getting ripped off — they’re wasting gas and time shopping in bookstores and not online.”

Kate Gore, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she agrees with Bodiford about the hassle of buying textbooks from University bookstores.

“I do usually tend to get my books from one of the Rutgers bookstores although I have bought books online before,” she said. “In my opinion, those prices are just way too steep for some of us broke college kids, so websites like BIGWORDS are really useful."


By Erin Walsh

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