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Bang for Your Buck

<p>Courtesy of Adobe</p>

Courtesy of Adobe

There is no avoiding it: College is expensive. Fortunately, Rutgers provides all students with an .edu email address, which can be used for much more than just corresponding with professors. There are a lot of companies willing to shave a few dollars off sticker prices for destitute academics. — 

Google Now Selling Digital Textbooks

Google first announced its intention to provide discounted digital textbooks at the company’s yearly I/O developer conference in May. The move is part of the Google Play for Education initiative, which aims to integrate Google’s products with the classroom. The service went live in August as an update to Google Play’s Books section.

Consumer confidence in e-books has wavered somewhat following price fixing allegations that have been levied against rival tech company, Apple. Nonetheless, Google Play and competitors like Amazon Kindle offer digital downloads of select textbooks for prices that are sometimes 50 to 60 percent cheaper than their print counterparts.

Though Google Play is a relative newcomer to the e-textbook trend, it already seems to have quite a bit of publisher support. The company claims to have 100,000 e-books readily available for purchase, some of which are not currently available on Amazon. In some rare cases, Google Play may even offer slightly lower prices than Amazon.

Google Play also offers rental options, giving users the chance to use a book for 180 days for even steeper discounts. Take Mankiw’s “Principles of Macroeconomics,” which is standard reading for some of Rutgers’ “Into to Macro” classes. A brand new copy of the book can cost anywhere between $125-250 depending on where it is purchased and whether it is hardcover or paperback. A 180-day rental from Google costs $88 in comparison.

When it comes to rentals however, Amazon is the better alternative. While Google Play only currently allows for 180-day rentals, Amazon allows users to select their own rental period and adjusts the price accordingly. As such, a shorter rental allows for a lower price. The same macroeconomics textbook with a rental period that ends on Dec. 23 (the last day of fall semester exams) will cost only $56.95.

The addition of Google into the e-textbook market is a good thing for students. As competition between Google, Amazon Kindle and other digital reading providers increases, e-books will only become more attractive options.

Amazon Student — Just get one

For those who prefer the more tactile feel of a real book, most people already know that Amazon is the place to go, especially when bookstore prices seem punitively high. As such, there isn’t really any reason not to have Amazon Student. Signing up is a painless process, as it only requires an .edu email address and grants members a six-month Amazon Prime trial. Prime users get free two-day shipping and additional discounts on applicable items. When the trial is over, Amazon Student users can just cancel their subscription to prevent Amazon from billing them or can continue using Prime at a 50-percent discount.

Adobe Creative Suite — There’s No Need to Pirate Anymore

Though Adobe Photoshop perennially tops lists for the year’s most-pirated computer applications, there is a much easier way of obtaining the popular photo editing software. Adobe has made it pretty clear that it is committed to digital downloads and cloud computing, and thus offers a subscription-based payment plan for its highly acclaimed Creative Suite. By heading over to Adobe.com and registering with an .edu email address, students can receive a sizeable discount. Students and faculty can pay $19.99 per license per month instead of the usual $49.99, provided that they agree to a year commitment. The subscription does not apply to just Photoshop either. Students are granted unlimited access to Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Muse, Audition, Acrobat, Bridge, Encore, Fireworks, Flash Professional, InCopy, Lightroom, Prelude and SpeedGrade. Though the one-year commitment may be off-putting for more casual users (Adobe will additionally bill anyone who cancels) the Creative Suite allows unrestricted use of programming that is valued at around $2600.

Upgrading Software?

Anyone with a capable PC and an .edu email address can upgrade their copy system’s operating system to Windows 8 Pro for only $69.99. The latest, touch-enabled iteration of Microsoft’s operating system has been met with mixed reception from critics and users alike. Windows 8 provides a number of improvements over its predecessor, including better power management and boot times, but has been criticized for its difficulty of use on non-touch devices. Microsoft is releasing a comprehensive update, called Windows 8.1, on Oct. 17, which makes substantial performance and interface changes, including the return of the traditional Start button. Windows 8.1 will be available for free to existing Windows 8 users.

… Or just buy a new laptop

Apple, Dell, Sony, HP and Lenovo all offer some sort of discount on hardware. Sony in particular deals most of its discounts in upgrades — the more a prospective buyer beefs up their Vaio notebook, the more money off they'll receive. Apple, on the other hand, will simply chop off a discount at the register. The best deal is on the 13" Macbook Pros without the Retina display. These start at $999, which is $200 less than sticker price.

The Power of the Cloud

Even in the midst of NSA spy scandals, cloud storage is still extremely popular, and there many options out there for all sorts of different needs. For straightforward, cheap and easy storage, it is impossible to go wrong with Google Drive, which offers users 15 GB of free storage. Unfortunately, Drive is currently unavailable for Windows Phone and Blackberry ecosystems, so for these cases, SugarSync is the better alternative. While its 5 GB of free storage won’t be winning any awards, SugarSync is compatible with iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry and even Nokia’s long-dead operating system, Symbian. Also, unlike Drive, SugarSync does not impose upload limits. For those who need an even greater amount of online storage there is always mega.co.nz. While it doesn’t have an app, mega.co.nz can be used completely in-browser and offers users 50 GB of free storage. Of course, it is also worth mentioning that Mega’s predecessor is the now defunct Megaupload, so the site’s long-term prognosis is questionable.

All Work, No Play?

Most PC gamers already have Steam, which has cemented itself as one of the best software distribution services on the Internet. There are, however, a number of places to find deals on PC titles: Good Old Games, Amazon, Gamestop, Uplay, Gamefly and even EA’s oft criticized Origin service offer deals on downloadable games. Fortunately, the website isthereanydeal.com takes the hassle out of actually having to go out and bargain hunt. The site puts all the day’s discounts in an easy to read format and redirects users to the best deals.

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