Emily Gentile is a go-getter from Washington, DC, who attended The Catholic University of America (where she studied international business), Champlain College (where she received her MBA), and Graduate School USA (where she focused on economics).
She is also the co-founder of IHateTextbooks.com, a tool that students can use to find the lowest prices on their textbooks. While there’s nothing Emily can do about the rising cost of tuition, she is happy to help students save even a handful of dollars on their textbooks each semester and she offers some other cost-saving tips for college students as well. If you’re looking for a giggle, follow IHateTextbooks on Twitter!
Q. What is IHateTextbooks.com?
Basically, IHateTextbooks.com is the Expedia [an online comparison tool for flights, hotels, and vacation-related rentals] of textbooks.
I was sick of overpaying for textbooks, so a friend and I decided we would make a software [program] to help us find the lowest prices for textbooks across dozens of sites. With this tool, we'd save hundreds of dollars on textbooks each year. Soon, our friends asked us to share the software and we decided to make it publicly accessible for free.
IHateTextbooks.com is now a popular site that instantly compares textbook prices across 20+ sites to help students find the best deal! Last semester alone, the site saved students over one million dollars! The site also pulls current coupon codes to save students even more. I mean, who doesn’t love deals on deals? After countless tests, we've found that IHateTextbooks has always matched, and more often than not, found lower-priced books than similar sites.
Q. How did you decide on the name of IHateTextbooks.com?
Pretty catchy name, right? Whenever I shared the price comparison tool with my friends, I often got this response: "Man, I hate buying textbooks. This tool is awesome!" The name of the site was inspired by the reaction that I know we all have when buying textbooks, hoping [the purchase] doesn't burn a hole in our wallet. IHateTextbooks is relatable for students. The name is a bit edgy and breaks boundaries, just like what we are trying to do. We hate when students feel financially trapped by all the book requirements in college. We want to be the first ones to actually help reduce students' financial burdens, not add to them. We want to crush the cultural norm that financial debt is a requirement for higher education.
Q. Has it helped or hurt to be a student while working on a business?
IHateTextbooks.com really started growing as I began my Masters of Business Administration (MBA). All of my work in my MBA program was perfectly applicable to the work I was pursuing for IHateTextbooks. During my MBA program, we [IHateTextbooks] established a student ambassador program, which allows students the opportunity to gain marketing experience by finding unique ways to brand IHateTextbooks on their college campuses. The student ambassadors have brought so many creative ideas to the table!
Q. What has helped you maintain your schedule? Do you have any tricks to keep yourself on task?
I find that staying busy is the key to success. I love knowing that I've done something good each day; that is my motivation to keep myself very busy between my education, IHateTextbooks, and the many other tasks I juggle. I keep an intense calendar so I know what work I should prioritize. It's really my calendar that keeps me on track.
Q. Besides IHateTextbooks, how else can students save money in college?
Consider the main cost drivers of college (tuition, housing, food, textbooks) and ask yourself, "Is there anything I can do to diminish or offset these costs?" You can reduce your tuition costs by pursuing a school that offers you a great scholarship. Housing costs can often be avoided by working as a Resident Assistant—this is what I did. The hours were long and the job was stressful, but I am now very thankful for my decision. Lastly, in addition to using IHateTextbooks to save money on textbook purchases, check your local libraries to see if you can borrow your textbook(s) for free. You can also ask your professor if an older edition of the book is sufficient. Typically, the older version text is the same, though there may be different end-of-the-chapter exercises or page numbers. That can save students a lot!
Students can also offset costs by finding employment, whether it is on campus or around their university. One of the best employment opportunities is arguably working in the university library, since it is conveniently located and quiet, so any free time can be used to crank out homework. Who doesn't like getting paid to do homework?
Universities can charge so much for college, but there are ways to avoid some of the blow. Feel free to comment below if you have other advice for students!
Q. What are your aspirations for IHateTextbooks?
We'd like to turn the textbook industry upside down. Textbooks shouldn't be about the financial interests of publishers, but rather providing affordable and valuable resources for students. We hope that each student will know they have more options than just purchasing new, full-priced textbooks. We want IHateTextbooks.com to help as many students as possible. College is crazy expensive, so we're glad to know we can do something to help fellow students save a couple hundred dollars a year.
Q. What advice do you have for students interested in starting a business?
It is important to understand that a business takes time. It takes time to dedicate to developing the business, but it also takes time for the business to grow. Businesses don't (often) grow overnight, so patience and persistence is key. Keep reminding yourself of the goal you have in mind and you will get there.
Also, you don't need to work alone. As a college student especially, you have access to so many resourceful people, between your classmates and professors. Use the university [community] to [find and] bounce ideas off people and learn from best practices that already exist. Never be afraid to ask for advice.