Getting the best price for a used textbook
September 21, 2018 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of a really good textbook buyback site? I would like to sell a used textbook for the best price I can get. I paid 96.00 for it. I made markings on 47 of the 556 pages.
posted by htm to Shopping (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Assuming you bought it new for $96, I wouldn't expect to see more than half of that cost from a buyback service (so, $48). Even that strikes me as on the high side, but textbooks are a slightly weird corner of the publishing world.

Ever wonder why every textbook company puts out a new edition of a textbook every 3-4 years? It's not because, say, Psychology has changed dramatically since the last edition, it's because the publisher assumes that a given textbook will be sold three times; once new, and two more times used, and after three different students have used it, it's probably too beat up/highlighted to be appealing to a fourth buyer.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 6:39 PM on September 21, 2018

If you're a student taking classes at an institution that still has a physical bookstore, the best balance of ease and price may entail just selling it to them directly. College bookstores don't really operate at a profit -- to the extent they're making money, it's on school merch and snacks. Web resellers need better margins, so you may get a lower offer. (I have worked at more than one college bookstore, though it's possible your mileage may vary or that times have changed.)

If you prefer to shop around, or if that's not an option, pop the ISBN into Bookscouter and see what you get.

Whether your book is the most recent edition published will matter much, much more than condition will, honestly. No one cares about the highlighting, or anything else, as long as the pages are all there and the cover's intact. Books being beat-up isn't the real concern; textbook companies issue new editions constantly to prevent the used marketplace from becoming saturated, to force students to buy new, and change around just enough content to make using the old edition a pain. (This is why a lot of professors I know don't assign textbooks when they can avoid it; many who do will try to provide page numbers for multiple editions when giving reading assignments, so students can catch a small break on price.)
posted by halation at 6:53 PM on September 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

For the most possible money back (many caveats here--the book biz is complex), I would expect your best bet is selling it on yourself. It is incredibly easy to make just one sale on Ebay or Amazon. Crash course on doing this on Amazon: USE THE ISBN to look up your book, click the "sell yours here" bottom on that page. There is an easy form to fill out in a matter of moments, and your book is up for sale. Please, list this book as no better than "acceptable." This is due to the writing, no matter how neat and (relatively) minimal you believe it to be. Take a moment to describe it very accurately and price competitively. You can get a good sense of if it will sell quickly (or slowly, or at all) by looking at the "best sellers rank." I'm pretty happy to find a book with a sales rank of 250k and below; if a modern textbook is getting into the million plus rank, that book is likely a goner due to a newer version.

But let's say you sell your thing! Yay! Pack it well and mail it rapidly. You can use Media Mail rate which is a sweet deal the USPS offers for shipping books. Takes a little more time, but I've never had a complaint in thousands of sales using MM. Once you enter confirmation that you've mailed it (Amazon allows you to print postage right from the site), you will get the money in your seller account. It takes a while for new sellers to get the actual cash in their bank accts--a month I think, if that's a deal-breaker for you. You also must have a bank acct to link.

This general idea will serve you well on lots of book selling sites, many of which charge nothing unless you sell your book. eBay is a good option, as well, though then you need to take a few photos yourself. eBay pays immediately into PayPal, and maybe some other options? I'm unsure.

Sorry for the wall of info. I love book selling and I'm a terrible bore. But to get the most money back and give a third party the smallest cut, selling yourself is probably the way to go. Also trying other students local to you through FB or Craigslist or whatever might work well. Good luck!
posted by thebrokedown at 11:28 PM on September 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I agree with thebrokedown that your best bet would be to sell it yourself. That said, as someone who has also bought used books online for courses, media mail is too slow when you’ve just started a course and are trying to get a book in the mail ASAP (say, if the professor doesn’t post the syllabus ahead of time). So in that case, I want expedited shipping. Offer that as an option too so that the person can choose dependent on his/her scenario.

As far as writing in the textbook, I’ve also gone back and erased things I’ve written in pencil to be able to command more money when selling it. Depending on how much you wrote on those pages, it may or may not be worth it.
posted by trampoliningisfun at 4:10 AM on September 22, 2018

When I was in college and had a lot of textbooks to sell (and also needed to make every dollar count), I went with selling the textbooks myself on Amazon. I considered selling them back to the campus bookstore, but ultimately went the Amazon route because it wasn't too much hassle, and I got more money back. I think for cheaper paper back books that might only sell for a few bucks, I sold them back to the book store (or kept them in the case of most novels assigned for class), but for an expensive textbook, it can often be worth the extra effort to sell it yourself, as outlined by thebrokedown.

(And for what it's worth, I'm the kind of person who generally hates doing this kind of thing, and even I didn't find it to be too onerous.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:13 PM on September 22, 2018

Wow. Thanks much, all, for your incredible feedback!! I sincerely appreciate it!! Another way to go that I have been considering is to donate my textbook to a charitable organization for a tax write off. Not every donation center takes books so I would need to investigate. I wonder if that might give me the most bang for my buck, so to speak. Any thoughts on going that route?
posted by htm at 5:45 PM on September 23, 2018

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