In the past, students were beholden to the campus buyback counter as the only outlet for their old books. Now however there are so many options online students no longer have to accept making pennies on the dollar for their used textbooks. Enterprising students are able to profit from their books, sometimes earning wads of cash rather than mere meal money.

Making the most off of your used books is not for the faint of heart, but if you are willing to put in the time and effort into selling your books online, you can reap some nice rewards. To begin with it helps to NOT buy your books on campus in the first place. As soon as you sign up for next semester’s classes get a hold of the required text list.

Time is of the essence; the longer you have the more you can make of it. With list in hand start doing some online shopping. There are many schools that change the textbooks for courses from year to year which eliminate the on-campus demand and value of that text. But, if your school needs that text it has some value to you. The student at the other school might be happy to sell you that $150 book for $15 because it’s $15 more than their bookstore was offering.

Not too long ago it could take forever bouncing from website-to-website trying to source the lowest priced book available. Luckily it’s now 2008 and thanks to you only have to visit their website, type in your book’s ISBN number and away you go.’s online price tool allows you to view what the top book websites (including auction sites such as are selling your book for. You will also be able to get shipping costs and any of the other fine print that can add to the cost of your purchase.

The next step is eerily similar to the first, just the opposite. Instead of going online to buy your books, you go online to sell them. The exact same principles are at work and the book might be far more valuable on another campus than on your own. If you have time and patience take advantage of it. Typically the prices rise as the semester approaches and people become desperate. On some occasions the demand for a certain text might have skyrocketed for the next semester allowing a student to actually sell the book for more than they paid.

You are probably not going to make hundreds of dollars every single semester. There might be semesters where you only break even. But other years the stars might align and you’ll strike gold with that geology book. Over the course of 4 years that it all adds up and maybe you’ve made $500-$1,000 which isnt too shabby.

By: Dan Russell

For decades the only place to sell back your used books was the campus bookstore. If you were lucky they would buy your books and if you were luckier you might get more than meal money. The Internet obviously changed all that. Now students have access to thousands of potential buyers; eBay alone has over 25,000 textbooks for sale. Even more traditional online bookstores and Barnes& are buying back textbooks. The marketplace is so large that websites such as and have been created to specialize in that area.

Students are now taking advantage of this opportunity in record numbers. More often selling their books back for more than their campus bookstore was offering. What could be better than that? What could possibly be the drawback you ask? Well for one it’s just not as simple as turning on your computer and selling your books. With so many options it takes time sorting through them all. Luckily has an online price comparison tool that allows you to plug in your book’s details and check out the going rate for your book over most of the major websites.

However it’s still going to take some time to list all of your books for sale on those websites. Time is money and you’ll be earning it. It won’t take up hours of your time, but expect to spend more time than you would have waiting in line at the buyback counter. Once yours books are listed for sale online, you’ll need to manage those sales, answer questions from prospective buyers, and if you’re lucky sell those books. Then you need to lug all those books to the post office (hopefully it’s on campus) and mail them off. Make sure you have the correct postage, the correct addresses, and the correct books going to the correct addresses.

Many of these websites will also take a commission out of your sale price reducing the amount you receive. That is when you finally receive your money. After all the work is said and done you’ll still have to wait for your money to arrive. Waiting for a check to arrive isn’t quite the same as the instant gratification you get walking out of the bookstore with a handful of cash. When all is said and done you might have only made a dollar or two more than the bookstore was offering. Cashing a check for $7.50 isn’t necessarily better than walking out of the bookstore with $5 in cash.

Ultimately there are benefits and drawbacks to everything. The students who benefit the most from selling their books are the ones who understand everything involved. Even if you ultimately decide to sell your books on campus you’ll be doing yourself a HUGE disservice by not taking a look at an online price comparison tool such as the one available on It only takes a minute or two and you might be surprised to find out that other students are buying that Bio book for $100, which beats the $25 the bookstore offered your roommate.

By: Dan Russell

There are few bright spots to spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks at the beginning of the semester.  In fact, aside from the knowledge gleaned from those books I can think of only one:  selling them back towards the end of the semester and making some very easy money.  It is important to note though that there are buyback options other than the friendly folks at the campus bookstore.  They might not all provide the cash-in-hand instant gratification of the bookstore, but they might earn a few more bucks for your effort and patience.

Many students turn first towards the Internet when selling their books. Keep in mind that this takes more time and effort than simply turning on your computer and logging into Facebook.  It takes time to find a buyer, time and effort to ship your books, and lastly plenty of time (though equally little effort) waiting for your money to arrive. There are many websites in addition to that can help you sell your books including eBay,, and even provides an online price comparison which takes away most of the initial legwork associated with searching out the best price by showing what the buyers on other major websites are asking.

Enterprising students are also using,, and to seek out buyers for their used books.  This takes a little more effort, but you can save on shipping costs and commission.  It’s also a win-win opportunity for both buyer and seller because you’ve eliminated the costly middleman.

Keep in mind that when you sell your books online you might only make a dollar or two more and you won’t have the instant gratification of trading in 20 pounds of books for $20 cash.  Even if you make $30 rather than $20 you’ll still have to wait a week or two to get the money.  That isn’t too convenient when you need money for dinner this weekend.

Many Schools have alternative or independent bookstores near campus.  These bookstores will sometimes pay a higher price at buyback time to bring students through the doors.  Occasionally these stores will have a website allowing students to easily look up their book’s buyback price.  Best of all, you walk out the door counting your cash.

By: Dan Russell

Selling back your textbooks can be the silver lining of many long semesters. Sometimes you can never put that horrible Biology 101 class behind until you actually sell the book back after the final. That Bio class gets the last laugh however when your classmate standing in front of you sells her book back for $50 while you receive $5 for the exact same book. Typically the bookstore employee won’t be able to offer an explanation beyond, “I’m sorry that’s just what the system told me.” Truth be told when you get paid minimum wage you aren’t privy to the reasons behind the buyback variances. I however can let you know that the two biggest factors that affect buyback prices are timing and simple economic supply and demand.

The reason for the huge swing in buyback prices between one book and the next is pure supply and demand. The demand for that Bio book consists of 50 students next semester. This means that the bookstore will only pay a premium on the first 50 books that are sold back. Every book sold back after the 50th will unfortunately be at a greatly reduced price. Timing is key during buyback season. The earlier you are able to sell back your texts the more likely you are to fall within the Bookstore’s demand criteria. The more money you are going to make.

There is a far more important factor at work than timing. You can curse the people standing at the bookstore counter but they aren’t the ones setting the demand for next semester’s books. Most students don’t think about it, but it’s the professors who set the demand. The bookstores aren’t forcing you to buy that $300 Shakespeare Folio. The Instructors are the ones who put together the required text lists. Unfortunately, their students’ financial wellbeing isn’t usually on their minds when they do this.

The earlier a Professor is able to place his or her book order the more beneficial it is to the bookstore and subsequently to the students. In fact the Professor’s order is the single most important factor in establishing demand for textbooks across the country. If the bookstore knows that a specific textbook will be used the following the semester the buyback price can skyrocket. Again, the price is determined by the demand. If you want to make the most on your buybacks let your professors know how much you learned from the textbook and encourage them to reorder them quickly. Like students, most Instructors don’t think about next semester’s books until the end of the current semester.

By: Dan Russell

Starting next week we are going to teach you all the things you need to know about the textbook buyback process. Our four part series will cover what affects the buyback prices, how to get the most from your books, what options you have and why the bookstore is not always the best option.

The real key in maximizing your textbook buyback potential is to make sure you are armed with the knowledge to make the right decision. Similar to making a big purchase, getting the most from your textbooks requires that you start early, do your research and know your options.

You may be asking yourself “what can I do now?” That answer is simple. Encourage your professor to let the bookstore know if they will be using the book again next semester. The most value for your book will come from your on campus bookstores when the book is being used again the next semester. While this will not guarantee you the maximum amount for your book it will greatly help the process.

As more and more articles are written about the high cost of textbooks what many experts fail to remind students is that in many cases the book does have value at the end of the semester. We have all heard the horror stories of paying $150 dollars and getting $15 back. But there are also students who got $50 to $75 for that same book.

Think of it like this. If I buy my book for $150 and sell it for $75 at the end of the semester I really just rented the textbook for $75. While the math will not always be this pretty, neither was getting that Wii that you are playing with. It requires a bit of effort, a desire and being smarter than the other students who are doing nothing more than standing in line.

So check back with us as we begin to explore how you can get the most of your textbooks this buyback season.

by: Jeff Cohen