How to Cash In When You Sell Used Textbooks

An entire industry has sprung up to help students sell textbooks at term's end. It's no wonder. Textbook prices have increased at four times the rate of inflation since 1994...with no end in sight. It's a crime, but one federal rules are working to change. In the meantime, the best you can do is try and resell your texts to the highest bidder.

Naturally, if you can sell your textbooks for cash -- at more than the usual campus 10-percent to 30-percent buy-back rate -- it'll hurt just a bit less when you have to invest in next term's tomes. While you're never going to sell them for 100 percent of their original cost, following these steps can help ensure you'll feel a bit less pain come the end of the term.

1. Determine Their Value
Several factors determine whether books have any resale value and how much cash you'll receive for them. These include whether the textbook is:

  • about to be replaced by an updated version;
  • in decent condition;
  • in demand; and
  • available with all of its pieces (CDs, study guides, kits, etc.).

2. Clean Them Up
Clean up the textbook as much as possible. Erase all pencil marks. (You did make notations in pencil, didn't you?) Clean off the cover. Fortunately, minor highlighting of the text is not seen as a major problem as some students actually prefer this. Just don't go hog wild and highlight every other paragraph.

3. Sell Early
You'll have a better chance of selling if your book is on the market early. Plus, when new editions are published, the value of previous versions decreases dramatically. Once your done with your book, get it out there before the professors can change their minds. Keep in mind the best time to sell is right after classes have ended and during finals week.

4. Shop Around Online
Check the average buy-back prices at your local bookstore, then surf the different textbook resale sites to see where you'll get the best return on your investment. Estimate how big a cut the website will take, deduct any shipping costs and consider depreciation. Keep in mind that some sites take less of a bite. For example, eCampus free shipping coupons ensure you won't have to pay for postage. A few websites to check include:

  • Barnes & Noble
  • Amazon
  • Chegg
  • BetterWorldBooks
  • AbeBooks
  • TextbookWheel

Note that most of these sites also sell used books, so visit them again when you're ready to buy.

5. Donate Them
If all else fails, consider donating. Access to textbooks can be difficult for low-income students, those in developing countries or incarcerated people.

6. There Is No Guarantee
Finally, there's never a guarantee that textbooks you purchase will be used again by any instructor. Textbooks are a learning tool and, hopefully, valuable to your education. You shouldn't buy books with the expectation of reselling every one as that doesn't always happen. The real value of a book is obtained by studying it carefully. If it can be resold when no longer needed, that's an extra bonus.

What tricks have you learned to get the best resale value out of your old textbooks? Did you find renting books a better deal?

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I have experiences with both. Renting and buying used ones. I think it depends on the subject and for how long you need the books. I prefer to buy used textbooks for my studies at Langara College. I like to own them and not to think about that I have to give them back. And when you are responsible person, normally the condition is always that good, that you can sell them after the exams. I do that at a site called It is especially for Canadians, and really good, because we don't have not that much good pages like this in Canada. Most of the good ones are american and don't ship to Canada.

Posted by Claire

Now there is a new tool to help get the best price. It is an Android app that you can take to the bookstore with you. Scan the textbook bar code and click the Sell Textbook button to see what the online book stores will pay for your book. Very Cool, you know in seconds if the book store is offering you a good price! Search the Android Market for Cheap Textbooks to find the app.

Posted by Bob

Well, I prefer to buy used books, instead of renting, I like to own my books, and feel free to write in there or mark something, with rented books, it is not so easy. And I always could sell my used SFU textbooks, you just have to find out go places, and now there are a lot of webites on the internet where you can easy sell or buy used books. On the site where I do that,, I can directly sell to other students from my campus, so no shipping costs at all and to sign in on this page is also for free!

Posted by Andrea