Poor student wants $ back
April 28, 2007 5:26 PM   Subscribe

What is the best site/method for selling back textbooks?

What has been your best site/method for selling back textbooks? Does timing matter (i.e. is it better to wait until the end of the semester or the beginning of the next one)? Any practical advice on getting the most possible $ back would be appreciated.
posted by rglass to Education (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Amazon marketplace worked for me and, yes, it seems that right before the start of a new semester is the best time. You'll (obviously) get more money for the books that haven't been replaced with a new edition.
posted by suasponte at 5:35 PM on April 28, 2007

Most possible money: See if those books are still being used at your school, and make postings at your school's classroom buildings, dorms, etc. to sell them. Make sure your price is at or lower than the campus bookstore's lowest price. If it is not the current edition, you can probably still sell it, but make sure it's really cheap (e.g. $20) and best to tell people when they want to buy it. This method is best done right before term or right after term starts. It requires some effort on your part, but boils down to about $100/hr of work.

Least work: Sell back to campus bookstore. Earn less money than from any other possible revenue. Usually, MUST be done at certain time of year, USUALLY involves being ripped off and told the book's changing, it's not being offered next term, etc. ANNOYING.

Middle grounds: (I haven't done these because the first two met my needs) Selling online through amazon, selling back to a reseller that isn't the campus bookstore, selling through craigslist.

Don't bother: trying to donate to a library or school unless they are specifically asking for textbooks. It feels good, until you hear how little textbooks are wanted (in general).
posted by whatzit at 5:36 PM on April 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

College bookstores are generally not-for-profit, run by Associated Students. Any profit the bookstore makes goes to fund ASB programs -- like Week of Welcome, noon concerts, carnival, book scholarships, etc. If you benefit from, or participate in, those kind of things, shopping at your college bookstore is in your interest. And of course it is the easiest of all possible ways to unload your books.
posted by Methylviolet at 5:58 PM on April 28, 2007

Methylviolet: I wouldn't take that as a "generally," in my experience, at least. None of the ones I've run into so far are non-profit.
For examples, MIT/Harvard has the Coop - and though it's a cooperative, it's some sort of subsidiary of Barnes & Noble. Not a non-profit. A lot of other Boston-area universities have similar B&N bookstores. The University of Minnesota has a huge and wonderful bookstore, but it's also for-profit, as far as I can tell.
posted by whatzit at 6:23 PM on April 28, 2007

A lot of college bookstores are managed by Follett Higher Education, which tends to make them feel for-profit and generic. But I think that the actual profits do go back to the school in the end.
posted by smackfu at 6:40 PM on April 28, 2007

Seonding whatzit, ours is Barnes & Noble. Definitely for-profit.
posted by lilithim at 6:52 PM on April 28, 2007

I really like half.com because it takes the ISBN number quite easily, tells you how the book sold at a variety of quality levels and has a good/easy management system if you're selling a lot of books. (I have 200 listed). It also ties into my eBay feedback, which is good for me because I used to sell a lot of stuff on eBay and have good feedback.

If a book is quite popular OR in demand, I sell it at the most common selling price for its quality level.

If it has been "sitting on the shelf" for more than 6 months, I re-price it at $1 or $1.50 cheaper than the last selling price at the quality level. This usually results in that book selling within a week or two. "Priced to sell" so to speak sometimes looks suspicious though, so don't go too low or people may not believe you about the quality level.

Also, be specific about wear and tear, highlighting, and writing to get honest feedback.

I usually have a lot of sales at the end of summer/beginning of fall. Be fast with shipping them at this time and you'll get feedback stating that you do as much.

Sales at wintertime/beginning of January were a bit less.

Otherwise, I get a few sales a month here and there.
posted by k8t at 6:55 PM on April 28, 2007

The difference between new and used is often much greater than the used price, so the best way to be out the least money is to buy used from amazon or somewhere to begin with.

I've sold a couple things on half.com, and it's easy to list them there, but any chance you have to not spend the money in the first place will leave you better off than reselling many times over.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:26 PM on April 28, 2007

I've sold my books through amazon.com and half.com. They're also the first place I look when I need to buy a book.

Bonus: half.com and eBay share the same account, and therefore the same positive feedback left on your profile.
posted by jeversol at 8:39 PM on April 28, 2007

amazon. i used ecampus for a couple of stupid semesters, but amazon is really the way to go (unless you can find a student in your dorm or whatever who's definitely going to use the book. then sell it to that person).
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:52 PM on April 28, 2007

To get the most money out of your books, list them yourself on Amazon/Half. It has always amazed me to see people handing over $20 books for $0.31 (not an exaggeration) at the campus bookstore. I once stood next to the buyback counter and offered a few dollars more for several books, which got me the books from the student and a glare from the clerk.

Extremely important for selling on Amazon:
1. Pack the book well, otherwise it will fall out and you'll lose the book and the money. This happened to three of my friends.
2. Use Delivery Confirmation ($0.60 at the post office or $0.14 online, or free with Priority Mail). Occasionally buyers are dishonest and try to claim the book never arrived. If you can't prove you sent the book, Amazon will take the money right back out of your bank account and refund the buyer.

On the bookstore front: For-profit bookstores are very common. Barnes & Noble College Booksellers operates over 500 stores on college campuses. Rumor has it that when Barnes & Noble went public in 1993, owner/chairman Len Riggio opted to retain private ownership of the college division because it was so profitable.

One of the largest textbook wholesalers, MBS, is owned or at least partially controlled by B&N. Even non-profit campus stores are likely to contribute to the bottom line of B&N, Follet or Nebraska Book Company when they buy books from those companies' wholesale/distribution divisions.
posted by reeddavid at 10:26 PM on April 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I stand corrected. Well, you could sell them to my college bookstore -- which is not-for-profit. That would be in my interest.
posted by Methylviolet at 10:40 PM on April 28, 2007

I used to sell them to Half.com if I couldn't sell them to other students.

(And every college bookstore I've ever run across was a soulless, money-sucking machine, there to squeeze every last cent out of the students. The only thing they liked better than non-returnable, shrinkwrapped books, were used textbooks that they could sell for $100, buy back for $20, and then wait three months and sell back for $100 again; all while hiring the same students they're screwing to work as employees at minimum wage. It's the best business model you can get, short of printing your own money.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:13 PM on April 28, 2007

At Penn they started "BetterThanTheBookstore.com" because they were so fed up with how badly our B&N bookstore was treating us. I have found an even better way to get rid of my books, though. I belong to a couple of major-oriented groups, and I befriend the kids in the class below mine, so I can sell them all of my old books. Also, our group does emails to members when an upperclassman has a book for sale that might benefit a lower classman. For outside-the-major classes, I use the site I mentioned above, or suck it up and be lazy at the bookstore.
posted by nursegracer at 10:21 AM on April 29, 2007

I usually drop by the bookstore a few weeks before the end of semester, and get the ISBN numbers for next semester's classes. Then off to Best Book Deal to purchase the books. Examples for Summer I:
  • History: Bkstr($68used. $91 new) - BBD $28.
  • Chem: Bkstr($181/$136) - BBD $30.08
  • Spanish:Bkstr($78/104) - BBD $57
After that, I usually sell back to the bookstore right before walking into the final and turn a profit. I've never turned enough money selling them online to make it worth my while, to be honest.
posted by Orb2069 at 11:20 AM on April 29, 2007

I second the suggestion that the best place to sell your books is on campus. I find that there is quite a bit of variety in the books different universities use for the same subjects, so the best way to find someone that needs your edition of the book is to try and sell it to a guy that is taking the class the semester after you!

Of course, this only works if they don't change the book, but quite often academics will just upgrade the edition, and students don't mind using the old edition if they can get it cheap enough.

So, find out if your university has a standard method for selling second hand books. Quite a few uni's/faculties have a website or a bulletin board or something like that. Then, list and sell away. I've even seen students selling textbooks by just saying "ACCT19033 textbook (Jones) $50", to make it easier for other students!

Oh, and of course if you are doing this, close to the start of the new semester is the best time.
posted by ranglin at 5:32 PM on April 29, 2007

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