Advertisement app provides a cheaper way to buy textbooks

As a parent of two adult children, with one just having left school and the other finishing a Master's degree, I know that buying textbooks at their staggeringly high prices adds insult to the injury of tuition, housing and living expenses.

Over the last few years, the market has made historic my remembrances of going to the bookstore and paying whatever was marked on the shelf while often vainly trying to find used titles of popular books.

Things have changed: and its little friend the app [iTunes Link] are welcome additions to the quest of buying books and still having enough left over for food.

The app tries to find the cheapest way to buy textbooks. Whether it's one book, or a long reading list, you will save money using this app. You can also make money by using it to sell unwanted books, but being a teacher, I have a problem with that, having never re-sold or thrown away a textbook. Of course,that's just me.

A good way to explain Bigwords is to take you through the process. The app lets you set a bunch of preferences, each one reducing your options a bit. You can choose books that are new only, new or used, high quality new or used, set shipping preferences, consider eBooks or rentals (along with rental terms) and whether you require a guaranteed buyback from the vendor.

You further customize it by telling it if you are a member of B&, Booksamillion,, whether you have used, and whether you are an Amazon Prime member. Amazon Prime is a service where for a yearly fee, most everything you buy comes with free 2nd-day shipping. The answers to all of these questions help determine your final price.

Using a sample reading list (I called my daughter), I got to work and tried to determine pricing. In the spirit of full disclosure, here's the list:

  • When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12 by Kylene Beers

  • The Power of Grammar: Unconventional Approaches to the Conventions of Language by Mary Ehrenworth

  • Purposeful Writing: Genre Study in the Secondary Writing Workshop by Rebecca Bowers Sipe

  • Local Acts: Community-Based Performance in the United States by Jan Cohen-Cruz

  • Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen

At list (bookstore) prices the lot would cost $144.10. Going through Amazon and paying no shipping (Amazon Prime), the price would be $128.88.

Using the app, with options set for no eBooks, no rentals, no guaranteed buyback, standard shipping, having Amazon Prime, and looking for the cheapest new or used volumes, the best price was $98.16-a savings of $45.95 over the bookstore or $30.72 less than Amazon Prime.

The results suggested two books from, one book from, one from Amazon and one from Abebooks. Three books were used and two were new. If it is too much trouble to use three sources, Bigwords also suggests the cheapest price using only one vendor which turned out to be $106.38 from for all used books.

The app has a 'buy now' button which takes you to the various web sites to purchase the books, with one 'buy now' button for each vendor. What I consider to be a quirk is that when you click on the 'buy now' button, you are shown a badge saying: "Reminder Buy the item for $xx.xx from the app selected vendor." The only response is clicking a button marked 'Okeydoke.' It would be nice to be able to go back without jumping out of the app. On the bright side, when you build a book list either by title, author or ISBN (I recommend ISBN since it's the most accurate), your list gets saved in the app, and the app icon then shows a little number indication of how many books are in your book bag. Once you are sent to the vendor site, you are on your own, which is why I can see that the one vendor option can be attractive.

I found the shipping prices determined by the app to be correct and the prices to be accurate.

The app, of course, is not the only game in town. Earlier today we covered Courseware, an eBook service which happened to stock none of the books on my list, or Amazon's Kindle which sold two of the five books for $9.99 each. The Kindle download can be read on a Kindle, with the Kindle app [iTunes Link] or Stanza [iTunes Link] depending upon DRM constraints.

Personally, I can't see using an eBook reader for a textbook without at least the ability to mark things up, but preferences are subjective.

I really like the app. It's simple, straightforward and will save you money, What more can you ask for?