5 Insider Secrets to Selling College Textbooks for Top Dollar

selling college textbooks

In 2019, it was estimated that purchasing college textbooks cost students an average of $1240 to $1440 each semester. When you’re already paying for tuition and housing, that’s no small sum of money.

One option students can consider is selling college textbooks after they’ve finished using them. The question is, can you make most or all of your money back? If so, how?

You may know by now that we love sharing tips for college students! Today, we’re going to share tips for selling textbooks. 

Read on for five tips to make more money reselling textbooks this year.

1. Maintain Your Textbooks to Sell Them “Like New”

When you’re selling used textbooks, they will typically fall into a few different categories. These categories tend to range from “fair condition” to “like new.” When used textbook resellers can sell used textbooks under the “like new” category, they can charge more–which means that they’ll pay you more.

To keep your textbooks in “like new” condition, you will need to maintain them. That means protecting them from tears and water damage and making sure that the cover doesn’t get too beat up. It also means that you’ll want to take notes elsewhere.

Most used textbook resellers will accept books that have lines that are underlined or highlighted. However, they will usually knock down their offer in these cases. If you’ve taken physical notes in your textbook, they may not take them at all.

The best thing to do is to take notes on your computer or in a notebook. Leaving the pages pristine (meaning no underlining or highlighting, either) will help you maintain that “like new” condition.

2. Shop Your Options For Selling College Textbooks

Take your time when figuring out where to sell textbooks. There are tons of resellers that will accept new textbooks, including online sellers and even second-hand bookstores in your community. However, if you want to get top dollar for your college textbooks, you’ll want to shop around before accepting an offer.

Start by checking in with the seller you purchased your textbooks from in the first place. If they have a used book option, they likely buy back the books that they’ve sold. 

Websites like BookScouter are also useful in this process. BookScouter functions as a database for used booksellers. All you have to do is type in the ISBN number and BookScouter will generate a price comparison chart to help you find the reseller who is willing to offer the most money for your books. 

3. Act Fast When Reselling Textbooks

There are a lot of reasons that you won’t usually get 100% of your money back when you’re selling college textbooks. One is, of course, that your books are no longer new once you sell them back. People won’t pay retail prices for a used textbook, so resellers can’t offer you retail prices when buying them. 

However, there’s another reason that not all college students are aware of. Textbooks can go out of commission at a surprisingly fast rate.

Most professors want students to purchase the latest edition of a textbook. New editions include the most updated information and resources, so this does make sense. However, it also puts a burden on college students who are hoping to make money off of their used textbooks.

The vast majority of textbook publishers are putting out a new edition of their textbooks about three to four times per decade. This means that textbooks, even the latest editions, don’t maintain their value for long because demand will drop almost entirely when a new edition is released. 

What does that mean for you? It means that as soon as you’re done with a textbook, it’s time to start shopping your options for selling college textbooks. Don’t wait until you’ve graduated to try to sell everything, or a large percentage of your books will have lost their value. 

4. Talk to People In Your Program

At the end of the day, companies that will buy back used college textbooks need to turn a profit. That means that they can only offer you a fraction of what they’ll make off of your textbooks, which is already a fraction of what you paid.

There are ways to cut out the middleman, so to speak. Some textbooks are used quite a bit in certain programs. If you have college textbooks that you know students in your program will need next semester, talk to those students, directly. See if they’re interested in buying your well-maintained textbooks for about 1/2-3/4ths the retail price. 

5. Sell College Textbooks at the Right Time of Year

The demand for used college textbooks doesn’t correlate to the latest editions, alone. The demand also correlates to the time of year. There are three specific times a year that students are in the market for college textbooks and you’ll want to start selling yours in time to meet this demand.

Most students are in the market for textbooks either right before or right at the beginning of a new semester. This includes August and September for the fall semester, December and January for the spring semester, and May for summer classes. You may find that reselling textbooks is easier (and more lucrative) when you try to sell them in these high-demand windows. 

Looking For a Better Option? Try Renting Your Textbooks

The cost of college textbooks is on the rise. Selling college textbooks as soon as you’re done with them is a great way to make some of your money back. However, this isn’t always a guarantee and you may get short-changed in the end.

Is there a better option to spend less money on college textbooks? In almost every case, you are better off renting your college textbooks, rather than buying them. Browse our rental textbooks and get what you need for the upcoming semester at a fraction of the price.