How to Buy and Sell your Textbooks Without Going Broke

In Part Two of our “Back to School Special” blog series, author Kristen Creager takes a look at how college students can save hundreds of dollars each year by managing textbook acquisition after knowing all the available options. Enjoy!

With required books costing hundreds of dollars each, textbooks are a source of financial hardship for many students. Piling this cost on top of student loans and rising tuition can be brutal.

The good news is that nowadays, students have many options to buy and rent textbooks. Here are seven ways to get the books you need without blowing your budget.

Buy New

If you want only shiny, clean, unmarked textbooks… this is your option. Although new books can be expensive, you’re getting what you pay for. You can find new textbooks from your campus bookstore, Amazon and many other online retailers – compare prices across these resources to get the best deal.

Buy Used

Used textbooks can be half the price of new ones, and many are in nearly new condition. Be sure that there is minimal marking inside the book, and that all the pages are intact. Used textbooks can be bought from your campus bookstore, your fellow classmates, Amazon, eBay, Half.com, or other online retailers. Physical textbook search engines like Bookdealfinder.com and Bookfinder.com can eliminate some of the legwork to find your textbook at the best price.

Rent Physical

If you only need a book for a small amount of time, renting is an economical option. Sites like chegg.com, ecampus.com, and campusbookrentals.com allow physical textbook renting. When calculating your total costs, remember you may have to pay for shipping.

Rent Digital

Amazon claims you can save up to 80% on textbooks by renting them from 30 to 360 days on your Kindle device, Kindle apps on iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone, Android and BlackBerry devices, as well as your Mac or PC. You can even store highlighted passages and notes in Amazon’s cloud. This service may save you money, and will save you the hassle of lugging around textbooks. However, not all textbooks are available in this format – and your eyes may need to get acclimated to reading digital text.

Buy Digital

Amazon also offers the option to extend your rental period, or buy the digital textbook. This may not be as cheap as used physical textbooks, but is still an option for the more digitally inclined – and a more environmentally friendly option.

Swap

You can also swap textbooks with classmates, or on sites like bookswap.com or edubookswap.com. At first glance, it doesn’t appear there is a whole lot of availability on these swap sites so choose this option carefully, and be aware shipping may be additional cost.

Check Your Campus Library

Some professors place a few copies of textbooks and/or course packs in the campus library for students to use freely. You may not be able to check them out and bring them home, but at least you can use them for free while you are in the library.

After you’ve used your books, what should you do with them? Here are four options to get the most bang for your buck:

Sell

If the textbook isn’t out-of-date – which unfortunately, happens a lot – you may be able to sell your books back to the store you bought them from and recoup your investment. You can also sell directly to other classmates. If those options don’t work, try your luck on sites like eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, and Half.com.

Donate

You can see if your local library will take textbook donations, or you can give them away for free on sites like Craigslist. Organizations like Books Through Bars give donated textbooks to prisoners. Check to find out if there is a chapter near you, so that you can eliminate shipping costs. These donations may be tax-deductible.

Keep

Some textbooks can be valuable references to have once you enter the working world. If you think you may need them down the road, can keep – and extend your investment past your college years.

Recycle

If all else fails, locate a nearby recycling center so that you can dispose of your books in the best way for the environment.

No matter which option you choose, try your best to take care of your books. Whether you keep or sell them, this will help you get the best return on your investment.

Make the purchasing of required textbooks part of your college strategy, and greatly reduce the costs of at least one aspect of your college education. Play the game well, and you may even turn a profit by buying low and selling high!

Be sure to check out Part One of our Back to School Special, an infographic that shows how to “Get a Job at Graduation: A Career Plan for College Students“.

 

About the Author: Kristen Creager is a marketer, musician, and writer living in Los Angeles. Kristen is excited about how her generation is changing the business world, and is passionate about combining creativity with business. She completed her business undergrad education at Michigan State University, and is now beginning her MBA at UC Irvine, focusing on marketing. You can connect with Kristen on Twitter @kristencreag, or visit her website to find out more.

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  • Excellent tips that are spot-on. I want to add three more:
    1) Ask your prof is he/she is using the most current edition of the book or if an old one will suffice. Our department’s textbook is up to the 12th edition. I am totally fine with students using 8th-11th ed., and those books can be found used for about $5! Yes, there might be a new chapter, but the college library will likely have one or two copies on reserve or a fellow student may let you borrow;
    2) Ask your prof if you can send a note to their last class asking if anyone held on to their textbook and wants to sell. Many, many profs now use course management systems with face-to-face and online courses and retain access to former students this way; and
    3) Watch for courses not requiring any text. That’s right… the Gates Foundation provided a huge grant in WA State for 41 core courses to be built with only a $30 materials fee–no textbook. Those courses will go worldwide for faculty use in late October. Thank you for the advice to help students in such an important way. Ellen Bremen, M.A.  @chattyprof http://chattyprof.blogspot.com

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    It is beneficial to buy old books because the cost of these old books are much less than the new books and it is also true that much of the books are in good conditions.

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