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August 10, 2010

Let's Talk - Your Favorite Reads

No. Not more textbook talk.  I'm getting ready for a couple days at the beach and am looking forward to spending hours at the water's edge reading.  It got me thinking about a possible table talk question.

Imagine that you're downsizing and only have space for five books.  What are you top 5 personal library essentials?

My answer:  Let me just say, it's a joy to know that I would never be faced with that challenge!!  Now that I have a Nook I will never have to worry about having space on my bookshelf!  It's a beautiful thing.   But...for the sake of my question I'll say:
  1. The Bible
  2. Charlotte's Web
  3. Bridges of Madison County
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird
  5. The Shack
I know it's kind of an odd collection...and I'm sure as others start posting their answers I'm going to say, "oh yeah....I'd want that one too," but these are the ones that come to mind right away for me.

How about you? 

August 8, 2010

Saving on College Textbooks

It's hard to believe, but two weeks from today we'll bring our daughter back to school and she'll begin life as a sophomore in College.

Amy is a pretty organized and responsible kid, so it didn't surprise me when she whipped out her notebook yesterday, and went over the list of things she needs to do in the next two week to get ready to go back.  The list included the obvious things, like shopping for dorm stuff and clothes -- but she impressed me when she thought of things like replenishing prescriptions and getting her banking in order.  [excuse me while I enjoy a proud mama moment].  The biggest shocker was that she even remembered that she needed to buy her books for next semester! 

Last year, she got very lucky in terms of books. Unlike her friends who shared horror stories of single books costing $150 - $200, her total for the whole year was probably less than $200.  I'm not sure what this year will bring, but while she was at work this morning, I thought I would do a little leg work to see what resources were out there to save on textbooks.  I was so astounded by what I found, that I wanted to share this with my blog friends, in case you have children who are getting ready to go back to college too.  Hopefully this will help you (or your children) keep your hard earned cash in your pockets where it belongs!!


I just did a quick comparison of four different online textbook resources to see what kind of savings we could come up with.   In each instance, I compared the same book - Calculus (Stewart's 6th Edition), hardcover ISBN10:0495011606.  List price:  $224.95

Here's what I found:

                                     New             Used            Rent             e-version
Amazon.com                 $162.56        varied           --                  $143.96
Barnes & Noble            $200.43                            $139.18        $  99.25
Textbooks.com             $191.48        $143.61       $  64.49
Bookbytes.com             $161.80        $114.45

I'm pretty amazed by the potential savings at Bookbytes.com -- but I have to tell you, I'm equally curious about the e-version available through B&N.  Having recently received a Nook, I have fallen in love with the idea of being able to carry your library around with you.  Apparently though, the Barnes & Noble e-version does NOT need a Nook.  There is a free application called NookStudy, that you download to your Mac or PC -- then when you purchase your e-books, they're accessible through your computer -- and you're able to highlight, tag and organize content in a way that makes sense for you.

It's been a long time since I had to study from a textbook, but it sounds to me like it would be a God send for organizing your studies.  And with textbooks available at a fraction of the cost, it could really be a great way to save money and work smarter!  If anyone has used NookStudy for school, I'd love to hear what you think.

Since I started my research this morning, Amy has since gotten home from work.  So when I told her about the textbook savings deals that I found, she informed me that last year she purchased the majority of her books at half.com and also saved a boat load of bucks. The one caveat there was that the books she purchased there were definitely used.

Out of curiosity, I visited half.com to do a 5th comparison, using the same Calc book as my point of reference.  They advertised a "best price" of $120.65 -- but it looks like it's more of an auction environment where individual sellers determine the asking price and name the condition.  The prices I saw ranged from $120 - $160.

It's pretty curious really -- with all of these great deals available through the Internet, I wonder how it is affecting college bookstores?  I can't imagine why anyone would shop there anymore.

Would love to know what your experience has been with any of these sites.  Happy shopping!

Once Out of Control ...Now Liberated

Like so much of my day-to-day life, lately my email has spun out of control. I used to love to come home from work and check my email to see what funny stories my friends where sharing, or to get caught up in virtual time with a college or high school friend. But about two or three months ago, I realized that I wasn't doing to much of that anymore.

When I'd come home from work, I'd check my email, and watch as one of 36 or 40 emails would download into my in bin. One by one, I'd watch as the little envelope graphic floated through mid-air, and mail would be collected out of cyberspace. Sadly, after all the downloads were complete, I'd look and realize that most of the mail was nothing more than sale fliers from the stores I've shopped with online, or an occasional newsletter from HGTV or Real Simple magazine.  Real Simple is the pretty ironic one -- because for all their strategies to "simplify" they've really managed to muck up my mailbox!!

Truthfully, I was receiving so much junk mail from stores, that half the time I wouldn't even bother going through my mail at all.  I would let the junk email pile up in my inbox the same way that it piles up on my kitchen counter.  It was so frustrating to me to try to sort through all the newsletters and ads, that sometimes the "real" mail from family and friends would get lost in the shuffle. 

Well - I've made a bold move to gain back control of my inbox, and I'm trying to use modern technology to make my life easier -- and I have to tell you, it's very freeing.  I've unsubscribed from all but the handful of email newsletters that I actually enjoy reading -- and decided to put Twitter to work for me, by following those merchants and websites that I'm interested in following.  According to all of the "unsubscribe" message confirmations that I've received, it's going to take a week to ten days for all the changes in subscriptions to take effect, but hopefully before long, my inbox will be mine again!  I'll let you know if I see a noticeable change (though something tells me that it is going to be an ongoing battle to keep my inbox in control). 

Admittedly, Twitter can be a little bit daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty cool.  Tweetdeck has been a real help for me in trying to sort through it all. I can organize the people/merchants/websites that I'm following by topic, and quickly scan the latest sales, news, magazines, school information, celebrity gossip, etc. to see what's what.  No more need to open a zillion emails, delete, save, purge, mark as junk.  I log on when I want, see what I want, log off and it manages itself -- and best of all, my mailbox will be mine again!  Not too bad.  

There's definitely a risk in what I'm doing -- not everyone has gotten on board with a social media strategy yet, and I'm not on Twitter 24/7, so I might miss a sale or two -- but you know what? That's OK -- no puppies are going to die if I miss out on free shipping from Sports Authority (I seldom shop online with them anyway!).


In this age of information overload, technology can be a mixed blessing.  Information is constantly at our fingertips -- whether through your iPhone or Blackberry, Facebook, Twitter, email or the Internet -- information is coming at us all day, every day.  

In my constant effort to make life more manageable, I'd be really interested to know what are you doing to take control of the information overload monster?

August 7, 2010

Return from Paradise

I'm laughing to myself because I'm not sure this post is very aptly named.

I would imagine that when most people think of paradise they conjure up images of blue waters, white sands, palm trees, tropical breezes, and picturesque sunsets -- I suppose if you asked me to draw a picture of paradise it would look something like that too. But I just came back from six days of camping, high up on a mountain, where the air was fresh, the nights (and days) were cool, and there was absolutely no cell phone signal, no Internet access, and no electricity.  Paradise is the the only word that comes to mind to describe it.

There is something so pure and cleansing about camping.  When you're unplugged from the world and there is no accounting for time -- all there is to do is just breathe...and eat, and sleep, and read, and play games, and fish, and hike, and canoe.  When there is nothing to distract you from enjoying time with the ones you love, how could that be anything other than paradise?


So what if we slept on the hard ground and lived without the modern conveniences to which we've all become so accustomed?  So what if we were visited (twice) by a skunk? And a raccoon invaded our campsite while we slept?  So what if it rained buckets on the night before we left?  Those are just incidentals that added to the memory.

The heart of our trip was the pride on my son's face after he caught his first bass in the lake.  And the awesome moment shared with my daughter, when we stood looking up at the clear August night sky and both saw the same shooting star.  And the realization that the little boy who used to cling to my leg as a child, has grown into a funny, intelligent, brave -- and independent young man. And the truly restful nights of sleep laying next to the man I know will always protect me...my very best friend, and the love of my life.

No other words needed.  Paradise.    
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