Heya Reddit!

I am the dude behind Textbookly.com, a website that attempts to save students money by comparing textbook prices.

Textbookly was created back in 2009 back when I was in college, broke, and in need of buying textbooks. Since then it has grown a tremendous amount and we recently went through a complete redesign before and after.

I am a entrepreneuring full stack developer with a few years of experience under my belt, with experience in C#/PHP/Meteor.js SASS/LESS Javascript/jQuery. Ask me anything!

My Proof: Twitter post

Comments: 87 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

tberriman40 karma

Having been a college stdent yourself, do you agree that the cost of textbooks is ridiculous and unjustified?

valdev41 karma

Absolutely, and they are growing at an extreme rate as well.

I love the idea behind open textbooks for this reason.

tberriman9 karma

Also, do you think that the physical textbook will be rendered obsolete by the growing digital alternatives available? Or is the practice too ingrained to change?

valdev15 karma

That's a difficult question.

My speculation though is that in the near future, more and more professors will begin adopting textbook free alternatives to teaching classes. I've seen this happening more and more, and from experience nothing is better than hearing "You don't have to buy the textbook if you don't want to" the first day of class.

However I don't think that physical textbooks are going to become obsolete within the next 10 years, but after that the jury is out if they will be necessary anymore.

VROF5 karma

Do you think this is feasible with so many teachers being adjunct and not full time? Using digital resources that are free is a time consuming process and it is easier for part time teachers to just go with the simplest route.

I just took a History class online and the teacher used no textbook. The resources she found online were far superior. I appreciated the effort she put in to finding these so we didn't have to buy a book. But she is a full time tenured professor. My Econ teacher used a book that required an online key to access the textbook portal for quizzes and homework. The book is still in the shrink wrap I just used the code. She was a part time teacher who works at multiple schools and the textbook handling quizzes and homework is just easier for her.

valdev6 karma

I really think it depends on the professor and the department as well, I know alot of books are chosen by the departments and forced on professors if they like it or not.

[deleted]1 karma

Is there the potential that, if too many professors adopt textbook free alternatives, that those who profit from textbook sales will become worried, and take action? In other words, could schools begin instructing professors that textbooks are mandatory for use in education, to save that sweet, delicious profit?

valdev1 karma

Just speculation, but I would imagine that could be the case. Heck that might even be happening now.

gowtham_krish7 karma

do you think that the way in which a book is written is affected largely by commercial hands?

valdev6 karma

I wouldn't call it an impossibility. I'm sure there is influence with certain books, call me a conspiracy theorist but my marketing textbooks mentioned a lot of name brands :)

doodies7 karma

Why are so many start ups these days naming their company "...ly" ?

valdev9 karma

Hey, "these days" I started Textbookly in 2009.

meisterlurker7 karma

Did you ask permission from the websites that you use for displaying book prices? I want to create a similar service (not books, but other stuffs that can be bought online), but I'm not sure how to go about it without breaking any law

valdev3 karma

Yeah, I work hand in hand with them. Most places are glad to comply or even have their own API's to help along the way.

meisterlurker4 karma

Thanks for the reply! I used to think I can just crawl websites and scrape their data, but I found out there are legal issues when doing these stuffs. The use of APIs makes much more sense, I just hope most online retailers will provide them

valdev3 karma

Most do, it's almost retailer suicide if they don't.

Admiral_Narcissus6 karma

You mentioned that you love open textbooks. I agree, but if open textbooks catch on in a big way, that doesn't fit your business model - your business model in this case somewhat depends on differences between outrageous prices? Right?

Do you have plans on transitioning your model to a world with powerful open textbooks and open educational resources?

valdev22 karma

Honestly, when my site doesn't need to exist I will be more than happy. I didn't originally start Textbookly to make money, I created it to provide a service that I really wanted to exist.

I live to Entrepreneur, I'll find a new way :)

valdev11 karma

Well, my site is just plain simple to use. When I first made the site we didn't have as much competition. But honestly, as long as you save money it doesn't matter which you use :).

FedoraLa6 karma

I just rented a book using your website, and found a great price. Too great. So great, that I am forced to question the legitimacy of the site I rented it from. Does your site weed out the questionable book sellers/renters? or is it indiscriminate?

valdev7 karma

Absolutely, I've had some pretty shady looking websites asking to be listed. I always look up reviews and try to make sure the places are up to par.

Anyone can offer a good price

Xxzzeerrtt5 karma

How much Ramen Noodle did you eat while in College?

valdev6 karma

A lot. I still eat it a lot. But that's mostly because Ramen is awesome.

NuffyNufff4 karma

Are you hiring?

valdev8 karma

Haha, I really wish. Sadly this is a one man operation, and I get tired enough of my own micromanaging if that wasn't enough.

In the future it might be a possibility :)

UsedToHaveKarma3 karma

How can professors use your site to help choose high-value / low-cost books?

valdev3 karma

Well, currently the site is only intended for price comparison. So short of searching for the books they know, maybe checking for an earlier version, not much.

bad_fish873 karma

How much money do you make from your website? Do you support yourself from it? Make great money? I've always wondered this about guys who run these websites. You said ask you anything so I hope this isn't offensive.

valdev2 karma

A man never asks and a lady never tells.

twatloaf3 karma

How is CISA going to affect your business?

valdev2 karma

No idea.

CuriousCucumber_3 karma

College student here...I started my own textbook buyback business after developing a website that grabs prices from valorebooks.com . My school ended up giving me a grant to do research on how we can help students get more value out of their textbooks. The way publishers are horizontally integrated in this industry bugs the hell outta me so I have tried to make it so my business will be paying the most for students books. But valorebooks is paying super low percentages these days.

Does your website have a json api? I'd like to make it so my website @ http://168.235.67.45/books/ is able to grab prices from every textbook buyer out there rather than valorebooks. I would really like to be able to give customers the highest price possible

valdev5 karma

Sadly I currently do not have an outside facing API, though I am working on it.

I am glad you are doing that, the buyback industry is a mess. Between the bookstore offering pennies on the dollar and every scalper known to man, it's good to see someone doing something good!

VROF2 karma

Why do schools encourage lowering textbook costs but don't demand that the teachers use the online school portal instead allowing the textbook companies to force theirs on students?

valdev1 karma

Most schools are comprised of many different departments, some are for textbooks and others are against. If it seems wishy washy, that's because it is.

OregonTrailSurvivor2 karma

How did you get your start in coding? I feel like that's a great tool for entrepreneurs. I'm beginning a java course myself..

valdev2 karma

Well, I started coding back when I was in middle school. Although I was pretty terrible at it.

I first started by learning HTML, then I figure out the only way to not make bad looking websites was to learn CSS and finally I realized my websites needed javascript... so I learned javascript.

I guess the short answer to that is I was self taught. Then through college I learned a bit more.

OneObi2 karma

Will you extending to UK? Plenty of bright students over here too!

valdev3 karma

That's a tough one. I want to, and plan to, but when is unknown at this point in time.

MR_Se7en2 karma

When building SaSS programs - after you found the service - how do you go about building up the program?

valdev3 karma

Depends on the connection to the SaaS.

I usually just build out my connections in a data access layer to handle all the complicated finagling of getting the data together. Pass it to a model, and display/manipulate the data as needed.

If you want the specifics on security and how the connections are made, I think we could bore everyone out of this AMA. :)

JuSiPa2 karma

Do you support other countries? I'm in Britain, and don't mind buying a book from Timbuktu and shipping it over if it's cheaper.

Also you should have a feature which alerts people when a book that they need has lowered in price.

valdev2 karma

Currently, only the US is supported. I want to expand, and that is on the "to-do list" but I don't know when I'll have it done.

Very awesome idea, I've thought about it just didn't know if there would be a demand :)

JuSiPa2 karma

Don't piss about son. Just code that feature into your website and be done with it. If people want to use it then great. If not then it's their loss. BTW I'm no student - in industrial engineering we often refer back to textbooks (e.g. just last Friday I referred to a chapter on boiling in the Handbook of Heat Transfer by Warren Rohsenow). There is an industrial demand for your services.

valdev2 karma

Hmm... Interesting.

Still thanks for the idea, I'll think on it.

BizzyM2 karma

Do you also compare international editions to the over priced American versions?

valdev2 karma

If it has an ISBN, I'm pretty sure it should be comparable.

BizzyM2 karma

I don't remember if the ISBNs are identical. I graduated in 2010. I usually had to search using title and edition number.

For those that don't know, most publishers print an expensive American version in hard cover and a much cheaper international version in soft cover for the same material. The only exception I've ever found was in books dealing with math. The values in the practice problems differ.

A few times, I've sold my used international version for more than I bought it new because most people don't know it's an option our what the value is.

I'm still very surprised no one has ever capitalized on this.

valdev2 karma

Might be that most come with a label that says "Not for sale in the United States".

idiot-abroad2 karma

Do you think it's possible to start a book flipping business for textbook?

Trill-I-Am2 karma

Isn't that market already totally saturated?

valdev3 karma

Completely.

valdev2 karma

It's possible, lots of people do it. My student email account gets filled up with flipper emails at the end of every semester.

Cannot say how much money you would make however.

Nagaempress1 karma

Can you expand your database to include home school curriculum? I know there are a ton of them out there but I could sure use the help!

valdev3 karma

Not 100% certain what you mean by "home school curriculum". Can you please expand on that for me?

Nagaempress2 karma

I Home school and there are different companies out that that sell books for the kids. There are tons of online stores that carry them. For instance you can look up the history book Story of the World Volume 1 Now I can spend hours trying to find all the sites that have this book ( and the rest of the workbooks etc) that are a part of it. Half.com, Ebay, Amazon, Christian book, Adoramus. And come up with all differenct prices. Home schooling is expanding in the country for grades K through 12th. So I was wondering if you were thinking of maybe helping us as well. Thanks!

valdev2 karma

Well, I looked up that book right here . Is this not what you are asking for? :)

Nagaempress3 karma

OOOOOO sweet I will share your site with my people! ;)

valdev3 karma

Thank you! You're amazing.

pinlop2 karma

Hey I'm not posting to ask a question but just to tell you that on the LOWEST PRICES section when you compare prices for a book, the tags that say NEW, USED, RENTAL etc. for each website is somewhat misleading. On the link you shared above for example, if I'm not really careful I might that Amazon has a USED and Bookbyte is a RENTAL. All about the spacing I guess, and I thought I'd let you know :)

valdev2 karma

Great feedback, I'll look into boxing them apart better.

flukz1 karma

Too late? I was going to ask why the stupid name.

valdev3 karma

Because I am bad at choosing names lol

postman2091 karma

Have you worked with the schools bookstores as well to include their prices? I work for the Coursebooks section at my schools bookstore and we provide price comparisons on our own website and have 4 different ways to save money.

I just tend to think that sites like yours are adding to the inflation of books, it reminds me a lot of health insurance, in that those who can afford the books will end up paying more than those who go through a third party, or friends.

There's been over a 1000% increase in books over the past 4 decades. Where do you get your textbooks data? And do you provide textbooks or just a comparison?

valdev3 karma

Textbookly is 100% just a comparison site.

I've always wanted to work with a campus bookstore, and I tried back when I was in college but got declined any sort of meeting. We tend to show prices far cheaper than the on campus bookstore, if I had a guess on why they never wanted to cooperate that is why.

At this point we compare just about 40 different retailers who offer new, used, rentals and ebooks. I haven't seen too many times when the local bookstore is cheaper.

postman2091 karma

In your experience has a bookstore allowed price matching? I know our policy is limited to only Barnes and Noble and Amazon stocks. The reason being that some prices are based off a third party vendor whose methods of book retrieval is speculative, so we must only honor legitimate companies. When comparing prices is this considered?

valdev2 karma

In my experience the bookstore at the college where I went did not price match.

blahboy1110 karma

why didn't you buck the trend and be more creative than just adding 'ly' on the end of something?

valdev3 karma

At the time, "ly" was really trending and I liked the sound of it. All personal preference from there :)

natedemon2-1 karma

[deleted]

valdev3 karma

I'm not sure what the question is?

jordyj01-3 karma

[deleted]

valdev3 karma

I am confused. What?