Being Green: What Does It Mean?
Your Answer Could Win You a FREE Semester’s Worth of Textbooks

If you haven’t already heard, CampusBooks.com celebrated Earth Day by announcing our Being Green Textbook Scholarship. Students have a chance to save some big green on textbooks by expressing (via essay or video) what being green means to them. The grand-prize winner will receive a semester’s worth of textbooks (up to $500) and three runners-up will each receive $100 worth of textbooks. One random entrant will win a Kindle2 Digital Reader.

The Being Green 2009 Scholarship runs from Earth Day, April 22, 2009 through July 31, 2009. Winners will be selected by our friends at Beans for Books by 09/30/09 and notified by 10/15/09. All books for the winners will be acquired by Beans for Books and an emphasis will be placed on acquiring money-saving environmentally responsible used textbooks and eBooks whenever available.

Entering is totally east and completely worth it. I mean, who couldn’t use some green to help pay for their books next term? Exactly. So that said, get your spring on and enter now.

–Lena


In this installment of our Bookmark These blog series, we focus our attention on CollegeClickTV, which presents a massive amount of information in slightly differently ways from most sites.

CollegeClickTV: Millions of Students. Thousands of Interviews. Hundreds of Schools. One of a Kind.

URL: http://collegeclicktv.com/

The Deal in a Nutshell: CollegeClickTV offers key stats to over 2,000 colleges, videos from over 200 campuses, and over 20,000 interviews from students, professors, staff, faculty, and local merchants. It’s the scoop that you won’t get from any official college sites or a guidebooks.

About: “A student can come to CollegeClickTV and search for anything — from aspects of nightlife to campus activities to Greek life and much more. The site, in essence, picks up where the college-sponsored website leaves off. Although we do also provide school stats and other basic info, we are not competition for those other sites–we act as a complement. We’re like the gravy to their mashed potatoes. CollegeClickTV is absolutely the only website, of this magnitude and scope, to offer peer review video content on this subject matter.”

What You’ll Find on the Site:

  • A comparison tool where you can examine key stats for up to 4 colleges at once
  • A sweet collection of Top 5 lists ranking the serious and fun aspects of college
  • Tips on admission, financial aid, balancing your studies and your personal life, and careers and grad-school options for life after college
  • Downloadable images that are great for your desktop
  • A killer blog feed that pulls stories from the best and brightest all over the Web

Why We Dig It: CollegeClickTV gets our attention for three reasons:

  1. The site emphasizes video footage, and not just any old uploads or footage that looks a lot like the cinematography from The Blair Witch Project; we’re talking about professionally shot footage.
  2. The breadth of coverage is pretty massive. This one site is a veritable goldmine in terms of the amount, diversity, and quality of information presented here.
  3. The inside scoop is awesome. We love that CollegeClickTV keeps it real in terms of tackling stuff we wouldn’t find in official college publications or guides.

Bonus Bit o’ Cool: In addition to already providing a ton of great content for both current college students and high-school students looking to select a college, CollegeClickTV is still growing, still looking to deliver more, and they’ll pay for contributions. We love this sort of ambition and win-win proposition for college students.

–Lena


In the latest installment of our Bookmark These blog series, we focus our attention on the new and rapidly growing Dorms 101 website. Here’s the scoop:

Dorms 101: Your Guide to College Dorm Life!

URL: http://Dorms101.com

The Deal in a Nutshell: Dorms 101 is a robust site for students living in university housing. While the site is geared toward those living in the dorms, there's plenty of quality content for all students, even those living off campus.

About: ”Dorms101.com is the largest and most complete online source for tips, tricks, and advice on making the most out of your experience living in the dorms. This site is unique in the fact that it is written for students and parents of students who live in the dorms, or are about to be living in a college dorm room. Dorm life will be the single biggest social time of a student's life — and Dorms 101 is your guide to making the most of it.”

What You’ll Find on the Site: Tips, tricks, and advice on:

  • Safety and security
  • Style, decorating and designing your dorm room
  • Meeting new neighbors and making new friends
  • Studying in an environment that can be more than a little distracting
  • Getting along with roommates and floormates
  • Transitioning into — and eventually out of – the dorms
  • Food, food storage, cooking, grocery shopping, and nutrition
  • Budgets and finances
  • Dealing with parents and how to help parents deal with your college time
  • How to have fun and make the most of the college and campus experiences

Why We Dig It: Dorms 101 looks really promising and poised for big things. While Dorms 101 is new and there's not vast a ton of articles and posts, the stuff that is there is good and the site is set up in a very smart and scalable way to allow for ample growth. As well, Dorms 101 covers a vast amount of topical territory and the set-up encourages a lot of user participation and interactivity in the forms of comments, surveys, Twitter updates, Facebook and MySpace presences, and feeds. These folks definitely want visitors informed and involved.

Bonus Bit o’ Cool: In addition to loving the ways in which Dorms 101 works to create a user community (an essential part of Web 2.0), we also give props to Dorm 101 for showing as well as telling. The site has a lot of nice multimedia in the forms of sweet videos and a Flickr photostream.

–Lena 


Last week we introduced our spring blog series, Bookmark These: Must-Read Sites & Blogs for College Students. To kick things off, we focus our attention on the tremendously informative and delightfully irreverent HackCollege. Here’s the scoop:

HackCollege: Lifehacks & Study Tips for College Students

URL: www.HackCollege.com

The Deal in a Nutshell: Inspired by, but independent of, the popular LifeHacker website, Hack College is all about “working smarter, not harder.”

Mission Statement: “HackCollege is educating the students of the world about effective, open source software, putting techno-political arguments in everyday language, and creating a cult of ‘Students 2.0.’ If we can change the way 1 percent of college students and faculty in the world view education and technology, we’ve done our job.”

What You’ll Find on the Site: Tech tips, lifestyle enrichment advice, software and other product reviews, recommended reading, blog entries and video of the HackCollege show, updates about the HC community getting together at conferences and concerts, musings on important issues to college students (politics, the environment, internships and jobs), and of course, beer and parties.

Why We Dig It: Hack College is the perfect balance of serious and fun. There’s a ton of practical advice and great resources, and it’s all presented in a slick and enjoyable way. The site is organized, easy to navigate, and loaded with quality content. It’s tech savvy without being prohibitively geeky, serious without ever being a buzzkill, professional without being uptight, and the vibe is honest and chill but never lazy or apathetic. It’s clear that Kelly and the other HackCollege contributors take their site seriously and are committed to helping fellow students make the most of their college experiences.

Bonus Bit o’ Cool: HackCollege has been so successful that in November 2008, the creators reached across the pond and launched HackCollege.co.uk to share all of the HC goodness with students in the British Isles. While the content differs between the US and the UK versions so as to address regional particulars in higher education, much of the information contained in the UK version is applicable to students in the US, and vice versa. That said, double your hacktasticness and bookmark both versions to maximize the bennies that the HackCollege brand has to offer.

–Lena


Welcome to March, which as we all know, comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. To take some of the roar out of these final bitter weeks of winter and get you through to the more docile days of spring, we’ve decided to bring you a roundup of some of our favorite student-centric sites.

While there’s no shortage of college-focused websites and blogs containing relevant news, helpful tips and tricks, resources and reviews, slick multimedia, and suggestions for ways to help you study smarter (um, and to also distract you when you need a break from all-night chem cramming), we’ve narrowed it down to our 15 favorites, which we've listed below.

Stay tuned for upcoming CampusBooks.com blog entries starting next Wednesday when we’ll dive deeper into some of these sites and discuss why we consider them so indispensable. In the meantime, check out our fab 15 below and feel free to comment with suggestions of your own regarding must-reads for college students.

–Lena

15 Must-Read Sites & Blogs for College Students


On February 24, Amazon will begin shipping its new second-generation wireless reader, a device that the Internet retail giant calls simply Kindle 2. In this installment of the CampusBooks.com blog, we’ll examine the device, with a focus on what the K2 means for college students considering it as a means for reading textbooks digitally.

Physically and Aesthetically: The Kindle 2 is slimmer, trimmer, rounder, and generally sexier and less clunky than the original, but it’s still no drool-worthy knockout in the looks department. In addition to being more attractive and ergonomic than its predecessor, K2 has abandoned the old-school up-down scroll-wheel in favor of a 5-way controller (basically a tiny joystick) for improved navigation. Using the controller and the QWERTY keyboard, users can make annotations to text and highlight and clip key passages, which is excellent for those of us who like to make notes in the margins. Unfortunately, there is a caveat and it’s a big one: Amazon says, “Due to PDF’s fixed-layout format, some complex PDF files may not format correctly on your Kindle.” Wait, my formatting might take a hit and the PDF issues that have been a constant complaint about the original Kindle still plague Kindle 2?

Display: Size (6″ diagonal) and resolution (600×800) remain the same as the original but K2 is now up to 16-level grayscale from the original device’s four. Text-size is now adjustable and page turning is supposedly 20% faster than on the original Kindle. Okay, clearly the emphasis is on sharpness of text and paper-and-ink look rather than graphics. While this is assuredly an improvement and a cool thing for readers of literature and periodicals trying to replicate the page-turning experience, it doesn’t satisfy users who need color representations of images and graphs and illustrations. Bottom line, grayscale, no matter how many shades or layers, isn’t going to cut it with textbooks and it seems pretty passé in 2009.

Storage: Big change here, one that will please some users while annoying others. The original Kindle had a small memory (256MB) and an SD card slot that allowed users to expand (and to some extent, file and organize) via removable cards. The Kindle 2 has much more internal memory (2GB, approximately 1.4 available for user content), but it does not have an SD slot, which means that when capacity is reached, it’s time to delete (or buy the new Kindle 3, which will undoubtedly be available at that time). Amazon says that the K2′s internal capacity holds “more than 1,500 books,” and I don't doubt that, but I would venture to guess that those books are most likely not 450-page textbooks heavy on diagrams and illustrations.

Battery Life and Wireless: Amazon says that “with Kindle’s 25% longer battery life, you can read on a single charge for up to 4 days with wireless on, up to 2 weeks with wireless off. Connectivity relies upon Amazon Whispernet to provide wireless coverage via Sprint’s 3G high-speed data network.” All good there, and book downloads from Amazon’s Kindle Store look speedy (under a minute), but outside of that, Kindle’s Basic Web browser looks rather rudimentary and fit only for simple text-based websites such as Google and Wikipedia. Definitely not going to replace any iPhones or laptops.

New Goodies: A feature that bodes well for textbook reading is the inclusion of The New Oxford American Dictionary (250,000+ entries and definitions). Amazon describes the look-up process as non-interruptive, “simply move the cursor to it and the definition will automatically display at the bottom of the screen.” Another new feature I think worth mentioning is the addition of text-to-speech, a voice that Stephen King described as “a little bit like a GPS voice.” I view this enhancement much like I view the jump from 4 to 16-layer grayscale; that is to say that it’s good and necessary, but it’s not really enough. I mean, if you think your profs are boring during lectures and that reading a textbook is senses-numbing, imagine it all being spoken in GPS robot voice. Just saying…

Which brings me to my final assessment of the new Kindle 2: I think that the improvements and additions are excellent and much needed, but I still think that the device leaves a lot to be desired. In the K2, Amazon’s has done many things right and better, but not for an academic audience. For me, the lack of a color screen (and hey, what about a touchscreen?) is a major disappointment as is the limited internal capacity with no expansion slot.

If Amazon really wants to pave the way in digital reading, they’re going to have to satisfy the student demographic and develop a Kindle that seriously addresses what being a student means as well as the textbook-reading experience. Right now, what’s stopping the Kindle 2 from being that device is the vexing too-much-and-not-enough problem. The price is too much ($359 for the new K2 is not a price drop from the original and it’s simply prohibitively expensive for students), and the memory, graphics, and PDF capabilities are too little. When Amazon (or another company) delivers a digital reader that really caters to student needs, publishers will pay attention and be compelled to increase their digital offerings. What we have here is a case where technology could lead and set the precedent in terms of textbook delivery, interaction, and price. Unfortunately, the Kindle 2 is not the piece of technology that's going to do that.

–Lena


To start I have to say that CampusBooks.com does not support the illegal distribution of any materials but since it is currently happening in the textbook industry I feel the need to address it as a way for students to access information.  If not for the illegality, the idea makes perfect sense; a student buys a $150 book, copies all the pages and creates a PDF and then shares it with all their friends in class.

The concept of photocopying a book is nothing new.  The internet just allows the old photocopy to be scanned and shared with more people in a faster manner.  Years ago the big problem was students using university copy machines to make the copies!  At the time, the problem was not so widespread, and as long as the University made their ten cents a page they turned a blind eye.  As long as the university can still generate $20 for a 200 page textbook they didn't care so much.  But converting those copies into a PDF file eliminates the need to pay for photocopies.

The prohibitive cost of photocopying a textbook that is a few hundred pages also kept the practice in check.  For thinner books this will probably suit you fine because the costs are nominal.  But if you are going to just print the book off so that you can read it you may want to give it some serious consideration as the overall cost could easily be more than simply buying that book online.  And don't forget what you are doing is illegal and could have negative consequences.

eBooks
Again, we have covered this in the past so I am just going to reference some old posts covering the topic.

Are eBooks right for me?  – Part 1
Are eBooks right for me? – Part 2

by: Jeff Cohen


There is great potential in this idea and I can definitely see it picking up steam over the next year as more and more people become aware of it.  In short, using an open source education system such as MIT Open Courseware project, will allow professors to write and share curriculum with each other.  This is actually very close to the original intent of those who first created the World Wide Web.  Professors can then collect the materials into a “packet” and share it with students in their classes.  As more professors join these groups to create study materials, more of their work will find its way into the classroom.

The one thing that might hold up this idea will be the competition that is bound to start between open courseware projects.  Each school is going to want to have the “premier” set of data.  This will ultimately lead to the information being split into different systems and programs (contrary to the original intent), making it harder for professors to pull everything together that they want.  Ultimately as the open source courseware becomes perfected there will be two or three dominant systems and eventually we will have another Beta Vs VHS (or Blu Ray vs HD DVD) as different schools and companies fight to create the dominant system for consolidating the data.

The goal of this project should be to create one single repository of information that can be used and shared, as the creators of the World Wide Web intended.  It's taken 20+ years but maybe educators are finally getting back to the basics of how to use technology to improve the learning process.

The benefit for students is that initially this program will create free data.  Eventually however I am sure that many of these programs will offer a print on demand service that allows you to get a printed copy for a price, so enjoy it while it's free.

by: Jeff Cohen


This is a solid concept with some meat behind it.  Students will access their textbook(s) online many times throughout the semester.  Each time the online text is opened a new impression is created which can then be sold to an advertiser.  This impression or registration information can be customized down to the local level allowing local campus businesses to advertise directly to students.  Perhaps after reading an online textbook for 2 hours that advertisement for a ½ priced cup of coffee at the campus coffee shop will be that much more effective.  The question repeatedly being asked is whether or not the pop up advertising will be too annoying for students to tolerate?

The beauty is that it doesn't matter!  Here is the simple version of how an ad supported book works:  If you want the maximum discount for a book you will be forced to view it online with the full complement of ads.  The more you pay, the less advertising you see.  Need it in print?  Use a print on demand service for a nominal fee!  It is that easy.  In addition, if at any time during the process you don't want to view ads any more you can pay the upgrade fee and opt out of the ads.

So what is the catch?  The biggest catch is that not many publishers have bought into the concept and not many textbook titles are available yet.  It's probably just a matter of time though.  The ad supported model actually works better than “e-books” because a publisher doesn't have to set an expiration date for the data because as long as the student logs in to view it, new impressions are created and advertising dollars are generated.

If the business model catches on I can really see this take off.  I would expect students to give an initial negative reaction to ads in the textbook but in reality it is no different than reading a facebook page or any other online article.  Not surprisingly, students have gotten good at ignoring the advertising message.

by: Jeff Cohen


Great, you sold your books back to vendors either through your school, friends, an off campus location or through CampusBooks.com, and you have cash in hand.  What are you going to do with it?  Why not give your dorm room a make over on the cheap?  Below is a list of suggestions from DormDelicious.com on how to update your room without spending a fortune:

  1. Add Color.  According to DormDelicious.com adding color to your room can give it a whole new look and feel.   Why not check out the Salvation Army or Goodwill for a “vintage” or “retro” new bedspread.
  2. Add a Plant.  Adding a plant can not only make your room look better but it's helping the environment as well by producing clean air.  Why not pick one up at IKEA for $5 or under so you don't feel so bad when you kill the first few.
  3. Try Going Green.  No not the color, try updating your dorm to be a little more eco friendly.  DormDelicious.com recommends switching to a Brita water filter, or hemp or bamboo bedding. Another easy way is switching your light bulbs for compact florescent bulbs.  Not only are they cheaper but they last longer than regular bulbs.
  4. Make it Bigger.  Okay so you can't change the size of your room but you can make it look bigger.  Try lofting your bed if you haven't already it will save you a lot of space.  Add a mirror or two strategically placed mirrors can make the smallest room look bigger.

Happy Spending!  And good luck with the remodel!

by: Margaret Keag