Save Your Wallet: Buy and Sell Textbooks Online

A College Scenario

If you're a college student, you know this situation. The semester is wrapping up and you want to sell back your textbooks for some cash. The campus has booths set up all over the place saying "Sell Your Books Here." Or you go to the school bookstore. They promise to put some money back in your pocket, and hey, who has a problem with that?

But what a minute! You forked over 80 bucks for that Advanced Chemistry textbook, and now the school's offering you maybe $20 for it. It wasn't even new when you bought it--you rushed to grab one of the used copies, lightly battered and lovingly marked by dozens of previous owners. You just know the bookstore is going to turn around and sell your book to another student at $80 again, making a tidy profit. But where does that leave you? 

Or even worse, you discover that the university is using the newest edition of Intro to Italian, and your older copy, lacking that shiny new cover and expanded introduction, is deemed unworthy. You couldn't pay the school to take it off your hands. Oh, you're burning with righteous indignation!

If you've ever been frustrated by these situations, know that you can avoid them by doing a bit of clever buying and selling online. Cut out the middleman. It's worth the extra time and trouble to create and manage a seller account, set your own prices, and not feel like you're being taken advantage of!

Where to Buy/Sell Textbooks

Type the keywords "buy textbook" or "sell textbook" into Google and you'll pull up hundreds of pages. You can stick with well-known markets like Amazon and eBay, or you can try sites designed specifically for buying, selling, trading, or swapping used texts.

Here are a few of the most used online vendors:

  • Half.com. It's an eBay company that lets you search for textbooks in various conditions (brand new, like new, very good, good, acceptable).
  • Bigwords.com. Enter all the books you want to purchase, and "Uber-BOT" will calculate the lowest possible price. You can either sell back your books or donate them to help fight illiteracy.
  • Swapbooks.com. It features private student-to-student transactions, safe and anonymous, without a 3rd party escrow service.
  • Cash4Books.net. This site buys your used textbooks and offers free shipping with a pre-paid mailing label you can print from your computer. Note that most of the books they accept were printed in 2007 or later.
  • Chegg.com. Chegg lets you rent textbooks at a low price and ship them back for free when you're done with them. Plus, Chegg promises to plant a tree for every book rented.
  • Directtextbook.com. This site does the searching for you, looking for the best prices for used and new books, rentals, and ebooks.

Be a Responsible Seller

When you put your books up for sale, make sure you specify the exact title and edition. Use the ISBN for the greatest accuracy.

Be honest and scrupulous about the condition of your book. Most sites have you rank the book's condition: like new, good, acceptable, etc. Note that they don't have a "poor" category. This doesn't mean you can't sell your book if it's pretty beat up--a lot of students won't care--but you need to be upfront about it. Describe your books in some detail--do they have any markings, underlining, and highlighting? Is the cover and spine slightly scuffed, scratched, or torn? Are the pages grungy, bent, or ripped? No one likes being tricked, and people won't buy from you if you have a low approval rating.

Ship your sold items promptly. If you buy your books online, you know how urgent it is that you receive them on time for class.

Pricing and Timing Matter

Pay attention to how other sellers are pricing their copies. Price yours according to the condition of the book, but keep those other values in mind. You know most students are going for the cheapest option available. They care less about the quality because most college kids don't hang onto their books after the semester's over.

The timing also matters. There's going to be a great rush to buy and sell books in between semesters. During the semester, not so much.

Avoid those lines!
Avoid those lines!

Plan Ahead When Buying Books

Finally, if you know you want to buy used textbooks online and save some money, plan ahead. When it's possible, pull up your syllabus before the semester begins to see what texts you'll need. Order the books in advance so they'll have enough time to arrive. Another plus: you'll avoid the snakey long lines at the bookstore that first week of school!

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Comments 4 comments

J. S. A. 6 years ago

Glad to see you giving props to http://www.bigwords.com! I always use them to get my books for the best prices, and not just textbooks either - any books I'm interested in. And they are way better than dealing with the campus bookstore.


Painted Seahorse profile image

Painted Seahorse 6 years ago from Woodstock, GA Author

Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I'd almost prefer the dentist to the campus bookstore the first week of the semester!


Liz 6 years ago

Yay for http://www.bigwords.com!! I just found out about this site recently through a friend of mine and its the best out there. I use to use half.com and amazon but bigwords.com found me low prices that the others couldn't find. So it's good to see bigwords.com on that list too!!


Painted Seahorse profile image

Painted Seahorse 6 years ago from Woodstock, GA Author

Glad you found a good site, Liz! Thanks for sharing.

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