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Books on the go

Technology | Car-bound vacationers may turn to audiobooks for long summer drives

Issue: "Dating and courtship confusion," June 4, 2011

"Summer vacation" often involves hours driving to the beach or Grandma's house. While some families will be opting for iPads and individual DVD players to keep everyone occupied, others might be looking for a more communal experience, such as audiobooks. Buyers can find new releases and books under copyright in audio form through services such as Audible.com, where they can buy individual books or subscribe to receive credits toward buying books every month. Audible books are also available through Amazon.com and iTunes. Many classics are available for free on the internet, too: Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org) offers audio versions of some books, and at Librivox (librivox.org), users can download books read by volunteers-and can even sign up to participate.

Audiobook downloads aren't the only option for car-bound families: Thousands of podcasts available on iTunes cover subjects from pop culture and cooking to religion and science. Some colleges, universities, and seminaries offer audio versions of selected courses, such as philosophy or history. Radio programs are often available via podcast as well. And even the Kindle will read many books aloud, provided users are willing to listen to a computerized voice.

Cash back

It's the end of the school year, and college students are scrambling to recoup costs on all of those expensive textbooks. College bookstores buy used textbooks, but often for a fraction of the original cost. Students who are looking for a better deal can turn to the web.

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Though there are many websites that buy textbooks, two well-known companies also offer options. On Half.com, owned by eBay, sellers can list textbooks for sale. Buyers can also place pre-orders by specifying the textbook information and buyer rating they're looking for. If a seller lists a book that matches the buyer's specifications, he can instantly sell it to that buyer.

Similarly, sellers can list textbooks on Amazon.com, where the used listing will appear alongside the new textbook listing. Sellers on both sites are responsible for shipping the book to the customer quickly and in the condition indicated on the website. Both websites take a percentage of the sales, but sellers still often receive more than they'd get at the campus bookstore. And when the fall semester begins, returning students can check the sites to nab used textbooks at reasonable prices.

Paid per view

Advertisers already pay Facebook to get their message in front of the right users. But what if they start paying the users? Facebook recently announced a new program, called Facebook Credits, which will give users tangible incentives to watch certain ads-mostly ads for games. In its early stages, watchers will receive a credit that can be redeemed on Facebook Deals, a service that delivers daily deals, like Groupon. The company says it is moving away from "interruptive" advertising-like banner ads-and toward rewarding users for their interest.

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