Tips for Buying and Selling College Textbooks

by Ryan Guina

College textbooks are an expensive investment, but selling them can be an equally frustrating experience, especially when you realize that your books are not worth nearly as much as they were when you bought them. However, when you are careful, and you plan ahead, you can save a lot of money on your purchases, and make a substantial sum of money from reselling your textbooks. Although selling your books back to a college bookstore is the easiest method, the easiest way to get a good deal on both sides of the transaction is to take advantage of an online textbook buy and sell back service, such as,, or

Since selling online is the most profitable method, it seems like everyone would be selling them this way, but the reason they aren’t is because they seem to think that selling textbooks online is a complicated process. This article will provide you with the information you need to sell your books online and offline successfully.

Buying Textbooks with the End in Mind

buying and selling college textbooks onlineMost people are only concerned with the up front investment of the textbooks. If this is your only consideration, then consider renting a textbook, or buying an alternate version or even the previous edition of your professor gives the go-ahead. But it’s also important to consider the resale value of the book. In some cases, spending more up front will give you a higher resale value of the book, which makes up for any saving on the front end.

To ensure a better resale value, make sure that you purchase only the highest-quality books. Also, make sure that you only purchase the actual ISBN you are looking for, and not books that say ‘economy,’ ‘softcover,’ ‘international,’ etc. Comparison pricing is essential to make sure you find the lowest price. You want to find a book that is about 35-50 percent of the original price, if possible.

Final tip: Be careful to take care of your book as this will help it retain its value.

Selling College Textbooks Online

Selling college textbooks is competitive. The first thing that you want to do is to check out what other vendors are selling their books for. You can perform a quick search on Amazon through the ISBN number of your book in order to see what other people are selling the same book for. Once you have a pretty good idea of what the market value for your book is, then you can set up your account and list your book online. It’s a good idea to price your book slightly less than other vendors so you can sell your book more quickly. The worst thing that can happen is you get stuck with a book because there isn’t enough demand.

Before you list your book, you need to clean it thoroughly. Wipe down the front and back covers with a paper towel and window cleaner. If there are any stickers on the book, remove them by applying heat from a hair dryer on the highest setting while slowly peeling off the label. Check the pages of the textbook for any writing, and, if possible, erase any stray marking or underlining. If there are any marks that you cannot remove, make sure that you accurately convey the condition of the book by grading it properly with a “good” or “acceptable” rating.

When you do get your email confirming the sale of your book, make sure that you ship it out immediately. If you can’t get it out immediately, make sure that you take no longer than a couple of days to mail the book.

Although the majority of your online sales will come from Amazon, it always helps to diversify in order to increase your exposure. There are many sites where you can sell books online, including Ebay, Alibris, E Campus and more.

Selling Offline

As previously mentioned, selling your books at the campus bookstore is the easiest method. But it’s rarely the most profitable. If you are going to sell your books off-line, then consider things like Craigslist or trying to find another student at your school to sell the book to. Some campuses have bulletin boards where students can publicize books for sale. I don’t recommend trying to sell them to bookstores that don’t specialize in college textbooks. Overall, selling books in person isn’t as quick or easy, so it’s a good idea to cover your bases and try to sell online too. By following these tips, you should be able to maximize your profits from your used textbooks.

Photo credit: miyagisan

Published or updated December 26, 2012.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Manette @ Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance

Great tips! I wish and Craigslist already existed when I was in college. I am sure a lot of college students will benefit from this post. Let us start the year right. Thanks for sharing!


2 Kevin @ Ask for Benefits

The first of three starting ordering textbooks in August. We just finished round two mostly buying used books online at Amazon. The books were at 25% cheaper than at the college bookstore.

Amazon has text book trade in feature which I plan on trying. Any experience or advise with this approach?


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