My daughter’s private school now uses as supplier for their textbooks. The schools website says they do not require, but strongly recommend you purchase all your books from them. I go to the site, write down is ISBN number and search. I save up to 90% of Varsitybooks prices that way. I imagine that the school is getting a kickback or rebate or whatever from Varsitybooks. Does anyone know if this is true? If true, how much do they pay the schools?

The official line:
"Among these solutions is the premier online solution for outsourcing bookstore operations. This solution, among several offerings under our Varsity Books brand, provides partner schools with a hassle-free, cost-effective solution to buying textbooks. Varsity Books equips partner schools with all training and communication materials needed, a dedicated Account Manager to coordinate with school staff, assist with the program implementation, and provide a customized website for convenient, online ordering. Varsity Group takes care of all the legwork so that partner schools can concentrate on what is important – educating students. "

From the December 13, 2002 Chronicle of Higher Education, from Google cache:
"In some cases, Varsity’s college partners would be able to earn commissions on book sales – just as they did when they ran their own stores – although that is not emphasized in the dot-com’s pitch. “We don’t lead with, ‘Hey, this is how much money we’re making,’” Mr. Rush says. “We lead with, ‘How much pain are you experiencing?’” "

It says right on the homepage that “every purchase helps support your school.” I don’t think it can get any clearer than that.

As they say about lunches being free…

Incidentally, the captive textbook sites operated by, I believe, efollet, will in some cases name the books associated with your next class but absolutely refuse to give you an ISBN or enough info to identify WHICH book to buy on the open market.
When you’re buying a keyboarding/typing book that’s been through 9 editions and comes in 4 different versions with a brand new one just come out, it’s bloody well impossible to figure out which one the school wants from their site. The school refuses to tell you in person, and the support folks at the website refuse to give you the ISBN.
I just wait til the first day of class, get the ISBN then, and start looking on Once I find a decent price, I email the vendors inquiring about shipping speed and order the book with expedited shipping once I find a “ships same day or next morning” vendor.

I had not known about (Thanks Mr. Slant: it looks great!)

I usually use Occasionally I will visit

For an inexpensive book, amazon usually gives me good luck. For costly tomes, it’s worth it to search more aggressively.

I have found that for the greatest selection and best prices it is best to just type into google “buy isbn xxxxxxxxxxxxx” Even doing that I usually end up at Amazon. However, I from some obscure site paid $4.00 for a pristine $79.00 lab book, and got a perfect chemistry book when that search led me to ebay. I got everal books for 1 cent (plus $3.99 S & H of course) put I have never been unhappy with what I got and I save literally hundreds of dollars for an hour or less of work.

If you want a site that searches the major venues including Amazon, Half, Abebooks, Alibris, Biblio AND Ebay, you can always try
It also has some tools to help you sort out a title’s bibliography if you’re confused as to what you’re ordering.
On edit:
Sometimes there ARE differences between venues. There’s an Amazon bookseller named “quality7” who doesn’t own any books. He just finds books on and other places, tacks on $20 or more, then advertises the books on Amazon. When you order on Amazon, he just buys books from a seller on Half and has them ship direct to you. The guy sells thousands of books per month, so there is apparently some margin between the different venus…