How to Make the Most Money Selling Your Used Textbooks

Bookstores and other buyers can pay vastly different prices for the same textbook, which is why it pays to shop around when selling your school books.

Textbooks can be a crippling expense for college students. The average student spends up to $1,200 each year on textbooks and supplies. The high prices prevent some students from buying the books for their courses. This is according to the nonprofit U.S. Public Interest Research Group in its survey, “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market,” which polled about 2,000 college students on 156 campuses in 33 states.

Comparison shopping pays

If you have been lugging your textbooks to your campus bookstore to sell at the end of each term without checking what you could get elsewhere, you may be leaving money on the table. Not that you shouldn’t check with your local bookstore. You should. But look at the other options, too.

Why bother with comparison shopping? CampusShift, an Internet textbook marketplace, compared buyers’ offers for 50 top textbooks and found offers varied as much as $86.63 between the lowest and highest.

An article at DailyFinance underscores the money to be gained by comparison shopping: Writer Kyle Taylor searched online for prices for an economics textbook and found a difference of $50 between the highest and lowest offers: “On BookScouter, the highest offer came from RentText at $91.55, and the lowest offer was eTextShop at $41.25.”

Before we dive right into the business of selling your textbooks, here are a few more things to know:

Sell ’em while they’re hot

For the best return, sell textbooks shortly before the start of the next school term. “Mnerd,” a LifeHacker reader, offers this advice:

List quickly after you are done with the course. The longer you wait, the greater the likelihood you’ll forget, the book will get damage, and even waiting a semester may mean that your edition will be out of date.

Find the ISBN

Identifying books by their International Standard Book Number helps make selling textbooks quick and easy. Every book published since the late 1960s has an ISBN. It’s on the back corner of the book typically with the price and barcode. If the ISBN isn’t easy to find, enter the book’s title or author into the search window at ISBN Search.

Guard your books’ condition

The condition of a used book is important to its price. Next time you buy textbooks, follow Lifehacker’s steps for protecting textbooks from damage, including sealing the edges (or the entire book) with easily removed painters’ tape and using sticky notes instead of underlining.

Tell it straight

When selling books, you might feel inclined to overlook some flaws in describing their condition. But being less than honest just means you could run into trouble collecting payment. Save the bother and just tell it like it is.

Read the rules

Each market, whether a bookseller or large general marketplace like eBay, has its own rules. Avoid problems and disappointment by reading policies and FAQs at each. Always look at the policy on the condition of books a company will buy. Cash4Books’ describes, for example, problems for which it will reject or might reject a book.

3 types of marketplaces

The markets for selling used textbooks fall into three types:

1. Campus

On and near campus you have access to other students in the market for the books you’re selling. Some schools hold textbook exchanges or sales. You may advertise your books for sale in the campus newspaper, on your school’s website, in the city’s newspaper or on bulletin boards in stores, college buildings or residences on or near campus. Also, check prices at the traditional source for buying and selling textbooks, the campus bookstore.

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