Bibliophiles Rejoice: BookBub Helps Readers Find the Best e-Book Deals

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Stephen Yang/ Bloomberg News
There's nothing like a good bookstore. Curling up in the stacks, a pile of potential purchases surrounding you, flipping through a few pages here, a few pages there, following your interests wherever they may go. How relaxing, how enjoyable, how...1997.

Last year, e-book sales outpaced hardcovers for the first time -- a development that, not surprisingly, has paralleled the decline of brick-and-mortar booksellers. But, while the e-book revolution (and, to a greater extent, the Amazon revolution) has increased the convenience and cut the costs of book buying, it has also erased some of the pleasures that once accompanied bookstore shopping. Gone are the surprises -- the sudden discovery of a great new author or the wondrous delight of a deeply discounted book that you've always wanted.

Recreating the Bookstore...Online

A few companies have tried to imitate the joy of bookstore discovery. The goal -- helping readers to find new authors, as well as discount books -- is ultimately helpful to publishers as well as readers. After all, wondrous discoveries lead to wondrous sales. Even if those books are discounted, there still is a lot of money to be made, especially on e-books, which are much cheaper to produce and distribute than traditional "dead tree" hard copies of books.

For Kindle users -- including me -- Amazon's deals have long been the standard for the e-bookstore experience. Between their monthly specials, which spotlight 100 deeply discounted books, and their daily deals, which focus on four specials every day, a Kindle user can expect a consistent trickle of book bargains.

Other content companies, like Apple and Barnes and Noble offer similar services.

But for a real book junkie -- again, like me -- an online bookseller that only spotlights a couple hundred discounted books per month isn't nearly enough. Put in terms of the traditional bookstore experience, this would be roughly comparable to going to the "cheap deals" section of a bookstore, only to find that it consists of one shelf that is sparsely filled with bad mystery novels and self-help books.

Another Model

Josh Schanker, a Boston-based digital entrepreneur, thinks that he might have the solution. Like the DailyDeal, his company, BookBub, sends out a free daily e-mail that highlights deeply discounted books. However, unlike Amazon's service, BookBub offers bargains for users across all major reader platforms, including the iPad, the Kindle, the Sony reader and the Nook. More importantly, though, it allows users to select books across 17 different genres -- far more than the four offerings that come in each Daily Deal e-mail.

Finding books to promote is easy: publishers and independent writers pay BookBub to spotlight their publications. In fact, the difficult part is sorting through the requests: Schanker estimates that BookBub receives at least 50 submissions per day. "We have automatic filters that sort through the books based on price," he explains. "We only offer books that are discounted by 50 percent or more. Many of our books are free."

Even after sorting, there are still a lot of offers out there. BookBub's three-person editorial team researches the remaining books, reading reviews and scanning through the books themselves to get a feel for them.

For the publishers, there are several reasons for offering deep discounts. "A lot of publishers are hoping to get readers hooked on a series," Schanker explains. "The first one is free, but readers have to pay for later books." Similarly, by deeply discounting books, publishers can draw attention to lesser-known authors. "There are a lot of great authors who haven't built an audience yet," Schanker notes. "If publishers can build interest, they can sell the authors' other works."

Still other books are bestsellers that publishers temporarily discount in an attempt to drum up fresh interest in an author. Recently, for example, BookBub featured free books by Dan Brown and Jodi Picoult, both of whom have new novels coming out in 2013. "By discounting a backlist book, publishers can bring an author front and center," Schanker notes.

BookBub has found an appreciative audience: the company hit a million subscribers last month, and Schanker expects to see a lot more growth. "The larger we are, the more publishers want to work with us," he explains. And, given that there are few guides to the thousands of discounted ebooks on the market, it isn't hard to see why a million (and counting) readers are eager to work with BookBub.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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Here's A Quick Guide To Selling, Swapping, Buying And Renting Textbooks
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Bibliophiles Rejoice: BookBub Helps Readers Find the Best e-Book Deals

By Mandi Woodruff, Business Insider

Malls and e-commerce sites are packed with deals on back-to-school basics like electronics, but finding ways to shave the soaring costs of textbooks can be tricky.

From e-books to online swap meets, there's absolutely no reason to plop down big money for glossy hardbacks when you could be saving that cash for student loans down the road.

Click through our quick guide for buying, renting, selling and swapping your text books online and in-store.



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Amazon's Book Rental. Rent e-books as long as you need them (30 days minimum) and save up to 80% off the cover price. The best part about this service is that all your highlights and notes will still be available via their Cloud service even after you've returned your book. You can download books to just about any device, including the iPad, Kindle, Macs and PCs.

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Rent-A-Text. Created by Follett Higher Education Group, students can save 50 percent on average by renting their books from Rent-a-Text. Not only can you rent straight from eFollett.com, but the site gives access to rentals from more than 900 college bookstores across the nation. Want to avoid shipping charges? They tell you where to pick books up, too.

Video: Rent-A-Text

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Collegebookrenter.com. This site promises savings up to 85% off the cover price of textbooks. It claims to have the largest textbook inventory on the market and also allows you to sell or buy books new. CEO Chuck Jones says they aren't offering e-books at the moment but don't charge customers for shipping costs. And if you're really into highlighting the margins, Jones promises they're far more lenient in that regard.

Video: College Book Renter

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Chegg.com.This site has a huge inventory of books for rent and it recently launched an e-book rental service as well. You can download books to your account and access them anytime on the Web. The only drawback is they're only available as streaming files, so you'll need an Internet connection to access them and they can't be downloaded.

Video: Chegg

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Campusbookrentals.com. They give you a 15-day late return grace period and offer three options for rentals: 55 days (summer), 130 days (semester) and 85 days (quarter). Extra perk: They're cool with highlighting fanatics, too.

Video: Campus Book Rentals

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You can sell back your books on most sites, but Amazon is a great go-to site for anyone new to the game. Campusbooks.com has a great app to find the best buy-back price on your books. Stack up your text books with the ISBN codes all facing the same direction, then snap a photo with your smartphone.
 

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Give Cash4books.net a try if you're looking for something quick and simple. You can ship your book to them free and they pay by check or via PayPal.

Video: Cash4books

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Half.com. This eBay-owned site lets you rent and buy your books online, like Amazon.com.

Video: Half.com

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Swap.com. The go-to site to swap everything from DVDs to expired Groupons, Swap.com is also great for trading textbooks. If you've got an older edition you know you won't get much cash back for, it might be a better idea to try to swap it for another title.

Video: Swap.com

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Edubookswap.com. This site is a bit different in that it charges a fee ($8.95) for swapping services. If you sign up for a five-swap plan, that gets knocked down to $7.99 per book. But the cool part is every book you post for sale accrues points toward your account, which can then be applied to a book purchase. The points for each book are based on fair market value of the book, age and demand.

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Bookmooch.com. This is a true swap site, in that you trade books even-steven with other users and get points for every book you give away. For each book you give, you can get one back in return and you only pay the cost of shipping. You can also request books from other countries and choose to donate points to charities.

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