15 Podcasts That Will Make You Smarter

One of the more underrated benefits of the internet era has been access to quality radio style programming at any time of the day or night. Just like DVRs have freed us from having to adhere to rigid television program schedules, podcasting has enabled us to carry excellent radio with us for listening at any time. I struggle with not having enough hours in the day to listen to it all, because there is truly so much quality out there. Here are 15 podcasts in particular that will make you a smarter, more well rounded, and better informed person. Enjoy, and please leave your comments!

15. EconTalk

Econ-Talk

Duration: Roughly an hour

Hosted by professor Russel Roberts, EconTalk is the number one podcast for economics. With “clear and thoughtful conversations about economics”, the show brings the theory behind economics to situations and subjects that a wide variety of people can relate to. The show is usually a one on one discussion between Roberts and another guest.

Check out EconTalk HERE.

14. The Naked Scientists

The-Naked-Scientists

Duration: 60 mins

The Naked Scientists is an interactive podcast covering topical science news stories as well as answering audience questions. The show has featured several distinguished guests such as Alec Jeffreys (the discoverer of DNA fingerprints) and James D. Watson (the co-discoverer of DNA structure). The Naked Scientists have won several awards during their run, including the European Podcast Award.

Check out The Naked Scientists HERE.

13. Common Sense with Dan Carlin

Common-Sense-Dan-Carlin

Duration: Roughly 1 Hour

Dan Carlin is one of those people that has the amazing ability to present all side of an argument but remain non-partisan while doing so. Common Sense takes no prisoners, making all aspects of government and politics fair game for Carlin’s quick witted criticism. Known lovingly as “George Costanza on steroids”, Carlin’s podcast will keep you on your toes and your brain in shape!

Check out Common Sense with Dan Carlin HERE.

12. The Writer’s Block

The-Writers-Block

Duration: 30 Mins

This weekly reading series is targeted mainly at 25-40 year olds, appealing to young, intelligent, edgy listeners. Distributed through NPR, The Writer’s Block features stories, essays and poetry by all kinds of authors, and all kinds of genres, from non-fiction to plays!

Check out The Writer’s Block HERE.

11. The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe

The-Skeptics-Guide-To-The-Universe

Duration: 60 Mins

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe is a podcast hosted by Steven Novella and his panel of “skeptical rogues”. The podcast discusses myths, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience and paranormal discoveries with a certain level of disbelief and, well, skepticism. Novella and his colleagues have been instrumental in debating with anti-vaccine activists, “homeopathy practitioners” and those who debate the connection between HIV and AIDS.

Check out The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe HERE.

10. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

Wait-wait-dont-tell-me

Duration: 60 Mins

This hour long “quiz game show” is hosted by playwright and actor, Peter Sagal. Every week, three panelists are chosen to compete on the show. Listeners are also encouraged to participate by phone or email, sometimes being chosen as contestants themselves. Prizes for winning often include Carl Kasell recording voicemail on contestants home machines!

Check out Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! HERE.

9. The Sound of Young America

the-sound-of-young-america

Duration: 30 Mins

Based in Los Angeles, The Sound of Young America is hosted by Jesse Thorn, who spends segments interviewing popular arts and cultural personalities. Guests have included Art Spiegelman, David Cross, Patton Oswalt and even Ira Glass. The Sound of Young America got it’s start as a college station back in 2000 and made the jump to podcast form in 2004. The show has been mentioned in TIME Magazine and Salon.com, who said, “If you’ve never heard of The Sound of Young America, The Sound of Young America is the greatest radio show you’ve never heard of”. Well, now you don’t have an excuse, you’ve heard of it, now you just have to listen to it!

Check out The Sound of Young America HERE.

8. Keith and The Girl Comedy Talk Show

Keith-and-the-girl

Duration: Roughly an Hour

Keith and the Girl is one of the most popular comedy podcasts to hit the airwaves in the past 5 years. Hosted by couple Keith Malley and his singer girlfriend Chemda Khalili, the show features the pair discussing the daily adventures of their lives as well as current events. The show has over 50,000 listeners and has been ranked in the Top Ten Podcasts by Podcast Alley.

Check out Keith and The Girl HERE.

7. NewsPod

Newspod

Duration: 35 Mins

This daily program presents highlights from other BBC news programs, including BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 5, BBC Asian Network and many more. NewsPod brings the quickest news updates with a wide variety of topics and informed speakers.

Check out NewsPod HERE.

6. All in the Mind

All-in-the-mind

Duration: 30 Mins

All in the Mind host Natasha Mitchell presents one of the most unique podcasts, delving deeply into the human mind, brain and behavior. Topics include depression, addiction, consciousness and free will. This podcast brings educated, although unexpected, voices and themes to challenge the listener to take a closer look at the mind.

Check out All in the Mind HERE.

5. Material World

Material-World

Duration: Roughly an hour

Each week on Material World, scientists discuss and describe their work and projects. The program is split into two sections, spending 15 minutes on each topic, and interviewing scientists and engineers. Although this is one of the most scientifically informative podcasts, it’s only downfall lies in the abundance of cheesy science jokes and puns.

Check out Material World HERE.

4. The Dave Ramsey Show Podcast

Dave-Ramsey-Show

Duration: 3 Hours

The Dave Ramsey Show is a self-syndicated program that takes live calls regarding personal finance. Ramsey offers step by step guidance to listeners experiencing financial difficulties. The defining factor between Ramsey’s show, and other financial podcasts, is Ramsey’s willingness to take more than just the mathematical/statistical aspects into account. Ramsey relates to his audience through a spiritual and emotional connection, making him more like a friend or mentor than just a financial adviser. There are many roads to financial security and stability, but listening to Ramsey’s common sense proclamations is a great motivation for keeping on track to anyone who struggled with debt or their finances.

Check out The Dave Ramsey Show HERE

3. TED Talks

ted-talks-ideas-worth-spreading

Duration: Varies

TED talks is one of those rare shows that spans a large quantity of topics, without sacrificing the quality of discussion. This series of lectures features some of the best concepts (”ideas worth spreading”) as well as amazing speakers. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Jane Goodall, Al Gore and Bill Gates have all been noted speakers. By April of 2009, the talks had been heard over 100 Million times by over 15 million people.

Check out TED Talks HERE.

2. NPR Intelligence Squared

NPR-Intelligence-Squared-US

Duration: 60 mins

This NPR podcast brings an “Oxford-style debating to America”, your basic motion, one moderator and 3 on 3 debating. NPR markets this podcast toward a wide range of people, it’s discussions including American religions, Hollywood, and even terrorist organizations. The topics are timed with world events, but this podcast tends to shine a light on events you might not be hearing about on the nightly news.

Check out NPR Intelligence Squared HERE.

1. This American Life

This-American-Life

Duration: 60 Minutes

This hour long program, hosted by Ira Glass, is a journalistic non-fiction program, featuring essays, memoirs, short fiction and much more. The show, which first aired on the radio in 1995, is one of the most listened podcasts of our generation. The show’s incredible value was recently on display when it tackled the housing crisis and economic collapse with two episodes entitled “The Giant Pool of Money” and “The Giant Pool of Money Part 2″. TAL excels at taking the esoteric and making them understandable – relatable even – to the average Joe. Each week’s episode tackles one issue or topic in a variety of ways, ensuring that you will come away each week with a deeper understanding of the world.

Check out This American Life HERE.

Free! Microsoft Gives Students Professional Developer Tools

Are you one of those college students with a dream? Are you one of those college students with one of those technical dreams that end in some sort of world domination? Well then Microsoft has good news for you!

DreamSpark is simple; it’s all about giving students Microsoft professional-level developer and designer tools
at no charge so you can chase your dreams and create the next big breakthrough in technology – or just get a head start on your career.

Software tools for you at No Charge! The Microsoft DreamSpark student program allows students to get access to the latest Microsoft developer and designer tools, such as Visual Studio® and Expression® Studio, at no charge. Take advantage of this program today and unlock your creative potential. Start exploring the power of software.

Check it out here.

13 Free Online Sources to Help You Through School

Whether you’re struggling with a particular class or just want to expand what you know, these 13 sites can give you a library’s worth of information right from your laptop.

1. U.C. Berkeley Webcasts

Get podcasts and webcasts of current and archived courses at the University of California, Berkeley, and both live and on-demand webcasts of notable appearances, campus events, and prominent speakers and lectures.

2. MIT Open Courseware

Choose from over 1,700 courses spanning MIT’s entire curriculum, and download free lecture notes, exams, problem sets, labs, video lectures, video demonstrations, and more.

3. Wikipedia

Almost every significant event, person, place and thing has a page on the Wiki. Just remember that Wikipedia is a user-generated and user-monitored site, so what you’re reading may not necessarily have passed a thorough review for accuracy. Wikipedia’s a great place to start when you want to know more about pretty much anything, but you may not want to rely on it as the main reference source for your term paper.

4. Podcast Alley

A directory of over 36,000 podcasts, Podcast Alley lets you search for podcasts by key words or by category. Find hundreds of language-learning choices in the Education section, Mac Attack weekly tips and tricks for your Mac in the Technology section, or The Naked Scientists’ plain-English answers to your science questions in the Science & Medicine section.

5. YouTube

Sure, you can kill time—and brain cells—watching Britney Spears going down in flames at this year’s VMAs, or witness what happens when you mix Diet Coke and Mentos. But you can also find an introduction to calculus functions, Arabic language lessons, and a series on how to create fire effects in Photoshop. Rely on other viewers’ ratings to help you filter out the YouTube junk from the truly useful.

6. Education Index

The Education Index puts a huge database of educational websites at your fingertips. Simply click on a subject like archaeology, political science, or military technologies, and instantly get a list of links to sites both general and specialized that hold a wealth of information.

7. HowStuffWorks

From the light bulb to a rocket engine, HowStuffWorks breaks down how almost anything works with diagrams and easy-to-follow explanations. Don’t have an engineering streak in you? Check out “How the Batmobile Works,” “11 Stupid Legal Warnings,” or “What if everybody in the United States flushed the toilet at the same time?” No matter what you’re wondering, HowStuffWorks probably has an answer.

8. The History Channel

Surf through video galleries, timelines, maps, celebrated speeches, significant moments, and “This Day in History.” Enter in your birthday, and learn what’s happened throughout the years on the month and day you were born.

9. Dr. Math’s Math Forum

The Dr. Math forum answers thousands of common math questions, from elementary school to college level problems. Users submit their questions to the forum, and Dr. Math will post a response. If you’re having trouble in math class or with a problem set, it can help to read through old posts on the subject—chances are someone else has had the exact same problem you’re having.

10. Science

Not just for science geeks, the online version of the popular Science magazine offers thought-provoking and easy-to-read articles on everything from advances in neuroscience and astronomy to the latest in HIV research to “did you know” conversation starters, like why it makes evolutionary sense for certain animals to eat their young or why broccoli rubbed on your skin can help prevent sunburn damage.

11. Google News

Why pick and choose between news websites when you can harness the power and variety of all of them? Google News is a news aggregator that pulls all the top stories from thousands of news sites. You can use the power of Google search to find specific news items, browse standard categories like Health, Entertainment, and Top Stories, or personalize your Google News homepage and add custom categories of your own based on key words you choose.

12. www.chemistry.about.com

Articles, diagrams, walkthroughs and Q&As at About.com cover both the chemistry basics for new students and more specialized questions for more advanced students.

13. Education Arcade

Home to educational video and trivia games suited for middle school to college students, Education Arcade is entertainment that works your brain. In one of their augmented reality games, you can use GPS-enabled handheld computers to interview virtual characters and conduct large-scale environmental analysis to try to uncover the source of a simulated toxic spill.

13 Free Online Sources to Help You Through School

Whether you’re struggling with a particular class or just want to expand what you know, these 13 sites can give you a library’s worth of information right from your laptop.

1. U.C. Berkeley Webcasts

Get podcasts and webcasts of current and archived courses at the University of California, Berkeley, and both live and on-demand webcasts of notable appearances, campus events, and prominent speakers and lectures.

2. MIT Open Courseware

Choose from over 1,700 courses spanning MIT’s entire curriculum, and download free lecture notes, exams, problem sets, labs, video lectures, video demonstrations, and more.

3. Wikipedia

Almost every significant event, person, place and thing has a page on the Wiki. Just remember that Wikipedia is a user-generated and user-monitored site, so what you’re reading may not necessarily have passed a thorough review for accuracy. Wikipedia’s a great place to start when you want to know more about pretty much anything, but you may not want to rely on it as the main reference source for your term paper.

4. Podcast Alley

A directory of over 36,000 podcasts, Podcast Alley lets you search for podcasts by key words or by category. Find hundreds of language-learning choices in the Education section, Mac Attack weekly tips and tricks for your Mac in the Technology section, or The Naked Scientists’ plain-English answers to your science questions in the Science & Medicine section.

5. YouTube

Sure, you can kill time—and brain cells—watching Britney Spears going down in flames at this year’s VMAs, or witness what happens when you mix Diet Coke and Mentos. But you can also find an introduction to calculus functions, Arabic language lessons, and a series on how to create fire effects in Photoshop. Rely on other viewers’ ratings to help you filter out the YouTube junk from the truly useful.

6. Education Index

The Education Index puts a huge database of educational websites at your fingertips. Simply click on a subject like archaeology, political science, or military technologies, and instantly get a list of links to sites both general and specialized that hold a wealth of information.

7. HowStuffWorks

From the light bulb to a rocket engine, HowStuffWorks breaks down how almost anything works with diagrams and easy-to-follow explanations. Don’t have an engineering streak in you? Check out “How the Batmobile Works,” “11 Stupid Legal Warnings,” or “What if everybody in the United States flushed the toilet at the same time?” No matter what you’re wondering, HowStuffWorks probably has an answer.

8. The History Channel

Surf through video galleries, timelines, maps, celebrated speeches, significant moments, and “This Day in History.” Enter in your birthday, and learn what’s happened throughout the years on the month and day you were born.

9. Dr. Math’s Math Forum

The Dr. Math forum answers thousands of common math questions, from elementary school to college level problems. Users submit their questions to the forum, and Dr. Math will post a response. If you’re having trouble in math class or with a problem set, it can help to read through old posts on the subject—chances are someone else has had the exact same problem you’re having.

10. Science

Not just for science geeks, the online version of the popular Science magazine offers thought-provoking and easy-to-read articles on everything from advances in neuroscience and astronomy to the latest in HIV research to “did you know” conversation starters, like why it makes evolutionary sense for certain animals to eat their young or why broccoli rubbed on your skin can help prevent sunburn damage.

11. Google News

Why pick and choose between news websites when you can harness the power and variety of all of them? Google News is a news aggregator that pulls all the top stories from thousands of news sites. You can use the power of Google search to find specific news items, browse standard categories like Health, Entertainment, and Top Stories, or personalize your Google News homepage and add custom categories of your own based on key words you choose.

12. www.chemistry.about.com

Articles, diagrams, walkthroughs and Q&As at About.com cover both the chemistry basics for new students and more specialized questions for more advanced students.

13. Education Arcade

Home to educational video and trivia games suited for middle school to college students, Education Arcade is entertainment that works your brain. In one of their augmented reality games, you can use GPS-enabled handheld computers to interview virtual characters and conduct large-scale environmental analysis to try to uncover the source of a simulated toxic spill.

OnlineOCR Converts Your Scanned Documents to Editable Text

Whether it’s a page of printed notes from an instructor, an old proposal you want to edit, or a letter your boss wants turned into a template, OnlineOCR can help take an image of text and turn it into an editable copy.

You can upload documents in a variety of formats like PDF, TIFF, JPG, and other image files as well as a ZIP of your document. Without creating an account you can convert documents up to 1MB in size and 5 pages long. Creating a free account allows you to upload documents that are 20MB in size and longer than 5 pages.

The biggest bonus that comes with account creation isn’t the expansion in file size however but the format preservation. You can convert a PDF with columns into a Word document with columns and so on. The free version simply rips the text from the document into plain text—as seen in the screenshot above. If all you need is the text to slap into another application, the free account is more than sufficient. Note: For the advanced conversion that comes with an account, you get 5 credits good towards 5 pages of conversion, after that you’ll need to purchase additional credits to use the service. Basic conversion is always free. Thanks sharp-eyed readers!

Have your own favorite OCR tool? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

OnlineOCR [via MakeUseOf]

courtesy LH.

4 Cheap Brand-Name Laptops!

A new laptop for college doesn’t need to cost you $1,500. Don’t let the flashy ads and giant headlines fool you: You don’t need 4GB of RAM or a 2.4GHz dual-core processor to handle everything you need to do for class, even if you want to be able to download a video or blast your master playlist at the same time.

Save your money for food and rent; you can get all the college capability you need and all the digital entertainment center you want without the steep price tag.

Here’s a list of six relatively inexpensive yet powerful laptops from all the big-name manufacturers. Keep in mind that these come straight from the manufacturer’s website and can be found even cheaper elsewhere!

1) Dell Inspiron 15

Starting Price: $399*

click image for specific specs

This modest laptop packs all the processing power and entertainment capability most students will need all in an awesome outer shell! With an Intel® Celeron® 900 (1MB cache/2.20GHz/800Mhz FSB)processor,  2 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive,  Windows Vista pre-installed, a 15-inch display, and a CD burner. With its integrated wireless network card, the Inspiron comes ready to jump on your school’s wireless network. Best of all, you can make this laptop yours for monthly payments as low as $15.

Avg Customer Rating 	4.3 of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.3 of 5

2) Compaq Presario CQ60

Starting Price: $399.99*

Click image for more info

Click image for more info

Think of this bargain laptop as “the little computer that could.” It isn’t quite as powerful as its HP Pavilion cousin, but with a 2.1GHz Intel Pentium dual-core mobile processor, a healthy 3072MBMB RAM plus 250GB hard drive with built-in protection, and built-in wireless card and mic/webcam, this Presario is more than enough for the average student’s needs. And $15 a month is all you’ll need to take it home.

Avg Customer Rating 4 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4 out of 5

3) HP G60t

Starting Price: $499.99*

click image for more info

click image for more info

I am a proud owner of a HP laptop and I ooze nothing but praise for this brand, as I have put my laptop through the worst (coffee spills, drops, random coaster usage) and yet it has never failed me…not once! For a slightly higher price tag than the Presario, this laptop from HP offers an even better educational bang for your buck. With an Intel Pentium dual-core mobile processor cruising at a speed of 1.6GHz (with the option of upgrading up to a blazing 2.50GHz), a full 1GB RAM, a 15.4-inch display, built-in wireless, and a FireWire port plus 3 USB ports, built-in 5 digital media card reader, the Pavilion puts power and speed at your fingertips for about $20 a month.

Avg Customer Rating 4.6 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.6 out of 5

4) Toshiba Satellite Pro A210-EZ2202X

Price: $670*

click image for more info

click image for more info

With the AMD Turion 64 X2 dual-core mobile processor on this Toshiba laptop, you’ll plow through your assignments at 1.9GHz. Your barrage of PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, 20-page term papers, embedded videos, and multi-tab Internet research won’t stand a chance against the Satellite’s arsenal of 1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive, DVD burner, 4 USB ports, 15.4-inch display, and built-in wireless — all yours for about $24 a month.

Avg Customer Rating 4.5 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.5 out of 5

* Manufacturer prices as of October 14, 2009

Free! Google Book Downloader

Thanks to Google’s drive to add more and more books to the Google Books project, including thousands of public domain volumes, you’ll find quite a nice selection to choose from. Google Book Downloader helps you download them to PDF.

Let’s get one thing out of the way from the start. Google Book Downloader will not let you pirate books. It will however let you download books that are flagged as full-access such as books in the public domain and books with limited-preview—although you’ll only get the preview parts, not the entire book.

While using the application isn’t as simple as say right clicking on a file and saving it, the difficulty level isn’t high. Once you’ve installed the application, fire it up, and feed it some books you want to download. Although the instructions for the Add dialogue box indicate you can use ISBN numbers, we didn’t have much luck with that. Since you’re already searching Google Books to find the books you want, you might as well cut and paste the URL for the book at Google Books—that method never failed.

Once you’ve added your books they’ll appear in the download queue. From there start the downloads and let it go. Occasionally as the application pulls down data you’ll need to enter a captcha to keep the pipeline open, but other than that it’s an unattended process. Check out the tutorial available here to get a more in-depth overview of the process and make sure you get off to the right start.

Google Book Downloader is freeware, Windows only and requires .Net Framework 3.5 SP1 or above.

GoogleBookDownloader [via HackADay]
Courtesy LH.

Chegg.com Textbook Rental Service

Does it bother you when you spend hundreds of dollars at your local college bookstore on books for your current semester? Does it bother you even more to find out that you get pennies back during the buyback period for what you paid so much for? Well if you are like many other college students who buy books and get frustrated when they find out that the book they paid $150 for is only worth $20 at buyback, then maybe renting textbooks would be an option for you.

I recently had the chance to try textbook rentals out for myself. Of course, since I was so use to purchasing textbooks, I was hesitant to try out rentals, but I gave it a shot anyway. I used Chegg Textbook Rentals for my books last semester. Overall, my personal experience with Chegg was positive. There were only a few things that bothered me about them, however it was not bad enough to make me stop doing business with them.

How Chegg Works

So how do textbook rentals work? With Chegg, you go onto their site and enter your ISBN number for the book that you need. They will display the book information if they have it in their inventory for rental. Keep in mind that they do not have every single book available for rent, however so far I have not had an issue with lack of inventory. Once the book information is displayed, you have the option to rent the book for a semester, quarter or summer session. You can even alter the dates to match the class dates for your school. Once you have the book you want, you do the traditional checkout by entering your credit card information for payment of the rental. You will receive your book within seven to ten days. You will also be given the return date when you are due to send your book back to Chegg. There are no shipping charges for returning books back; you just log on to Chegg, print out a label and return the book(s) via UPS.

Money Saved

When I first checked out Chegg’s rental prices, I was a little skeptical. The prices were so cheap that I thought it couldn’t possibly be right. I just did not understand how a brand new textbook at my college bookstore cost $160 but Chegg was going to rent it to me for a semester for $55. However I ordered the books anyway and my total rental for four classes was $232. I rented books for four classes. The cost of the books for me to purchase brand new from my college bookstore would have been $562.

Customer Service

Chegg’s customer service department is excellent. I had an issue where I did not receive a specific book that I ordered. I sent an email to Chegg through their ‘contact us’ link on their website. Within twenty-four hours, I received a phone call from one of their customer service representatives offering to help resolve my issue ASAP.

Going Green

Chegg has jumped on the going green bandwagon and for every book that you rent, they plant a tree to try to preserve the environment. It is true that we are destroying our planet and Chegg is trying to do their part to save it.

Other Important Notes

  • Chegg has a buyback program. If you have college textbooks, you can see if Chegg will purchase them. You will receive cash or a Chegg credit.
  • The books that Chegg rents are in excellent condition. The ones I had even looked brand new and there was no writing or highlighting in any of the books I used.
  • Chegg has a purchase option. You are able to convert your rental to a purchase by paying additional charges.
  • There is a thirty-day refund guarantee, just in case you drop a class or your class is canceled for some reason.
  • Chegg does charge late fees for late returns so keep that in mind when renting your book. However in my experience, the return date for my book was three weeks after the last day of the semester so there was no reason for my book to be late getting back to Chegg.

My only complaint with Chegg was that they send some of their books via third party shippers. So you may order five books and receive two from Chegg, one from another company, and the other two from another company. They do advise that you may receive multiple shipments, however they try their hardest to be sure you have tracking information for each of the shipments.

Overall, Chegg is a great alternative for students on a budget. It is perfect for students who do not keep their textbooks for reference and for students who do not write in their books. Before you buy, check out Chegg for rentals. You may save yourself a chunk of change simply by doing what people have been doing throughout time: borrowing.

Free College Textbooks

The cost of college textbooks can be surprising and frustrating to a student already burdened with high tuition costs and assorted college fees. The source for most college textbooks is the college bookstore, where students often find high-priced new textbooks and moderately-priced used books. There are still a few ways that college textbooks are available free of charge.

Library: Nearly every college keeps copies of the most popular textbooks in the library. The downsides: Most libraries don’t have enough copies to meet the demand for free textbooks. They usually won’t let students check out the books; if they do, there can be a waiting list for the most popular texts.

Professors’ copies: Some professors keep an extra textbook in their offices. It doesn’t hurt to ask professors if they’ve got an extra they can lend. The downside: No one likes being hounded by dozens of students looking for free books, so be polite to your prof.

Online: Any student assigned a book that is no longer copyrighted—typically classic literature, history, etc.—should be able to find the text free online at one of the many growing Web libraries such as Project Gutenberg, Bartleby, or Googlebooks. Many of these Web sites let readers download the texts to a laptop, iPhone, or similar device.

Several open educational resources groups such as Connexions and the Open Educational Resources Consortium, which are made up of college officials and professors, are starting to post free textbooks and lessons online. Flatworld Knowledge, a start-up, has posted 11 business-oriented textbooks, which are being used in more than 300 colleges, free on its Web page in the hopes of persuading students to pay $29.95 for paper versions or $39.95 for audio versions.

The downsides: Although many high-quality, free E-textbooks are in the pipeline, only a handful of the free E-books currently available are top-notch. In addition, many E-books can be read online only, so you can’t download them to your laptop. Many E-books don’t allow students to make notations in the text. Also, some surveys show many students find paper books easier to study than the current generation of E-textbooks. And students who buy Kindles or other expensive E-book readers often end up spending more than those who buy paper books. The top Kindle currently retails for $489, which could easily eat up at least a year’s savings from shifting to E-books. “We don’t think that a textbook E-reader will solve any problems unless we can ensure that content can be delivered to students in a fair and affordable manner,” says Nicole Allen, textbook advocate for the Student Public Interest Research Groups.

Freecycling and Web-swapping: Several Web sites have sprung up to help students find free textbooks. Textbook Revolt, a Web site started by two former University of Cincinnati students, has thousands of students offering to swap textbooks free. Bookins.com is a popular book-swapping site. Swaptree allows people to swap books, CDs, or movies for textbooks. The downsides: Most of these sites are still comparatively small, so few in-demand textbooks are on offer. And all Internet transactions are fraught with the potential of misrepresentation or fraud.

Other Interesting Sites:

http://www.freeloadpress.com

http://www.textbookrevolution.org/

Tuition is Recession Proof!

With many colleges and universities raising tuition by as much as 30 percent this year, how does this play in with the “recession” that you and I are facing today? Also, if you remember, back in February $17 billion was appropriated to federal student aid, yet in light of this, why is my fee bill from this year significantly higher than that of last years?

Recent studies have come to the conclusion that increase in federal financial aid actually causes an inevitable increase in tuition, so in a sense, colleges are raising the cost of tuition in an effort to compete with the “charitable” efforts of government. The government actually subsidized these tuition hikes, after all a college is not different from any other business that wants to maximize its profits. For example, if the government guaranteed that anyone who wants to buy plasma televisions from Best Buy would get aid from the government, you can bet that Best Buy would raise the price of plasma televisions, in order to make as much money as possible.

“The $17 billion that will be appropriated to federal student aid will continue to fuel skyrocketing college tuitions. Federal financial aid has created a catch-22 for those trying to help students and their families pay their way through college. The goal of federal aid is to reduce the cost that students have to pay to attend college, but the irony is that more federal aid leads to an increase in tuition.
The reason this happens is supply and demand. More aid means more demand. Higher demand leads to a higher price.  Suddenly students that might not have been able to afford college can suddenly afford to pay. Colleges can raise tuition because they know that the government will give more aid if tuition becomes more expensive.”

To back up these claims, I went to the actual College Board website to do some research….of course I had to do some snooping around to find the two different pages that deal with increasing tuition and increasing aid…funny they don’t put them on the same page. They say that “both total grant aid per undergraduate and total federal loans per undergraduate increased by about 5.5% in 2007-08, after adjusting for inflation,” however, just a few clicks over, they also say, “private four-year [tuition is] $25,143 (up 5.9 percent from last year) [and] public four-year [tuition is]$6,585 (up 6.4 percent from last year).”

And so with all this going on, I have made it my duty to bring such news to the average college student….and not just bad news, but good news as well from smart ways to make money to smart ways to save money.

“Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality, nothing will do, and with them everything.” Benjamin Franklin