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How I Made a $Profit$ Selling College Textbooks

Updated on January 20, 2009

Don't Believe It? Then don't read it...

In my junior year of college, I had a speech class where I was able to get to know many of the other students. One day, we came upon the discussion of textbook prices, and it amazed me how many people simply paid campus bookstore prices for their books and then sold them back at whatever price the bookstore set for buy backs. When I heard that they were paying sometimes $400-$700 per semester on books, I was simply astonished. So for my first presentation of the semester, I planned a speech on book buy backs. Of all the presentations that day, I think my speech was the only one that students were actually taking notes and asking questions.

Example of Search Results
Example of Search Results

Buying

The first and most important step:

Go to http://www.campusi.com/

All you need are the ISBN numbers to search for your class textbooks. You can usually get the ISBN numbers from your school bookstore (sometimes listed on their website to order online). Plug the ISBN into campusi.com and it will do the searching for you. Campusi searches over 200 online bookstores (including Amazon, EBay, Alibris, etc.) and lists the prices from lowest to highest (including shipping and any available coupons)

Book Buying and Selling Tips

  • If your professor decides to change textbooks or editions after your semester ends(and your campus bookstore won't buy the book back), sell online. There is likely some college somewhere that is using that textbook, and some student looking to pay less for it.

  • When buying, if there is a significant price different between this year's edition and last year's edition, talk to your professor. Most often they will be fine with you using the previous edition (as there aren't always very many differences anyway).

  • Don't buy new books. Used books are just as good, if not better. Sometimes you will find helpful notes (and sometimes even answers) in the margin from its very thoughtful previous owner.

  • And if you absolutely have to buy the book new because it is the first or only edition, try consulting with past students. Ask them how often they used the book in class and outside of class. You may be able to get away with occassionally mooching off of your classmates if the book isn't referenced in class very often.

Selling

For Step Two, you may want to check with your campus bookstore on it's buy back policy. Many bookstores will buy back any books that will be used in the next semester's classes, but some require a purchase reciept with buy backs.

If your school's bookstore does not require a receipt, at the end of the semester you can take all of the books you purchased with campusi.com to get instant cash. In my freshman year, I made $20 profit on one book by selling it back to my school's bookstore.

If your school does require a receipt for buy back, then you can list your books for purchase on one of the many online bookstores (Amazon, EBay, etc.) or put up a flyer in your old classroom and list the book for 10% less than the school bookstore is offering it used.

You'll probably find that the biggest price differences will come from older books because the newer editions don't generally have "used book" prices available (until you go to sell them back :) of course ). And inevitably, you will find those professors that change books or editions every year, making it impossible to sell back your books. So you probably won't "make" money on every buy back, but breaking even isn't bad either, right?

How much money do you normally spend on texbooks each semester?

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      Mary 

      6 years ago

      I'm a college student in a community college in my area. New textbooks are very expensive, so I usually buy used ones; however, even used books (in total)for each school term could go just a bit lesser than my college tuition fee; it has been a pain to my pocket. I used to compare prices only with the college bookstore, Amazon.com, and bookbytes.com. Thank you for sharing me a site where there are more stores to compare prices.

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