For Dylan Fisher, buying textbooks becomes a treasure hunt.
When the UF exploratory freshman discovered he needed five textbooks for the spring semester, he set out to find the magic combination of new, used and rental books that would reduce the damage to his wallet.
"I'm going from Amazon to Neebo trying to strategize how to get the cheapest textbooks," said Fisher, 18.
His search is common for college students.
But comparing prices should not be that hard, said UF alumnus Steven Kennedy in an email.
That's why Kennedy, 26, started work on Textbooks.org, a website that compares textbook prices for free.
"I thought that there had to be a better way to do it, and I finally took the initiative to create a website that would help students save time and money," he said.
Kennedy said about 7,000 people have visited the site to compare prices on nearly 5,000 books since its launch in December.
The site compares prices for more than 30 online merchants, he said.
It then displays a list of the lowest prices for new, used and rental textbooks, including e-books and international editions.
The results are sorted from the cheapest overall price — the cost of the book plus shipping — to the highest. Users can then click through to the vendors' websites to purchase their books.
In addition, the website has blog posts describing where to find cheap textbooks at various colleges. These entries give information about alternatives to university bookstores. For example, UF's post mentions Orange and Blue Textbooks and the Florida Book Store.
Students can also search to see how much each merchant would pay to buy back their used textbooks.
"I've heard from several students and teachers who are excited about how useful the site is," Kennedy said.
Fisher ended up spending about $150 on books this semester, but he said he will definitely use Textbooks.org in the future.
"You're searching to find the most miniscule ways to save money," he said.