College Textbooks – Worth Their Weight in Gold?

Anyone who has either been in college recently or has had a child in college knows that textbooks are expensive. Some textbooks cost well over $200. Many students continue to purchase textbooks from their campus bookstore and then resell those books back to the university. The main reason is simply the convenience of purchasing the books near where you have the courses and not having to order them in advance. Unfortunately, campus bookstores often charge far more for books regardless of condition (New, Used, or Rental) than online retailers. Moreover, the campus bookstores also will pay far less for them at the end of the semester than other sources will.

What is the most cost effective way to purchase textbooks?

For any student looking to save money on their books, there are three simple steps. First, the student must determine the textbooks’ ISBN numbers, which can be used to find that textbook elsewhere. Many campus bookstores offer online book lists with ISBN numbers based on a student’s schedule. Second, the student needs to compare prices on a website, such as, or just search online retailers, such as Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Third, the student needs to order the books at least 2 weeks before classes begin.

Students always have the option of renting a textbook, rather than purchase the textbook. Websites, such as Amazon or, may have an option to rent the textbook for less than purchasing the book. This choice comes down to the preference of the student. If the student plans on making many notes and highlights in the book while studying, renters may charge the student. However, the student would not be responsible for reselling the book at the end of the year.

I, personally, recommend purchasing the textbook used around 3 weeks before courses start to get a lower price than right before classes start. Also, I recommend purchasing over renting textbooks, because a student may recover more money by reselling the books than students can initially save by renting.

What is the most cost effective way to resell textbooks?

Finals are over and students have 100lbs of textbooks that they never want to open again. Students have several options for reselling textbooks. Students may sell to the campus bookstore, a textbook company, or to another student. First, as mentioned above, reselling a book to the campus bookstore is not going to pay the most. Fortunately, some bookstores offer a minimum buyback price for those books which can only be purchased from the bookstore or are no longer used. For example, your marketing class requires you to pick up a book unique to your university. So you have to purchase the book from the campus bookstore. When classes are over, the marketing class decides to use a different book in the future. The student can go to the campus bookstore during their buyback and still sell the book back for $5.00 or some other minimum. Second, many textbook companies will set up on campuses at the end of the semester offering to buy textbooks for students. Most of their offers will be higher the campus bookstore’s offer. However, these tend to be picky about what books they purchase, and will not buy above a certain number of books. Third, the best way to recover your price of a textbook is to resell the book yourself to another student. Selling through an online retailer, such as Amazon, will cost a fee, but you will make far more money than reselling a book to a bookstore to act as a middleman.  However, this method requires much more effort than the first two. The student will have to ship the textbook to the other student and there is a chance the textbook will not sell.

This past semester I resold my books through Amazon and recovered most of my money. So, since I chose Amazon, I created a sellers account and then priced my books at the lowest price (or lowest price+shipping). The closer the school year comes, the more expensive books tend to get. Therefore, unlike when purchasing books, you should sell your books closer to classes beginning.

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