Textbook Arbitrage 101

We all know that textbooks aren’t getting any cheaper. Textbook prices have historically risen at over twice the rate of inflation and last year the average student spent over $1,000 annually on textbooks. Luckily, the Internet has unleashed a torrent of products and services to help you cut your textbook bill. From textbook rentals, to online price comparisons, to international editions, to textbook sharing, there have never been more options for you to save on textbooks.

Now, the latest technological marvel at your disposal will not only help you save on textbooks, but it can even be used to get your books for free. In fact, it’s even possible to make money on your textbooks! The reason has to do with simple economics: the law of supply and demand, and the nature of the textbook industry. In the financial world, this type of move is called arbitrage. Arbitrage is the simultaneous purchase and sale of something to profit from a price difference, and it exists due to market inefficiencies. In the textbook business, if you can time the purchase and sale of your textbooks correctly, you can take advantage of the big swings in price for both buying and selling books.

The tool that allows you to arbitrage your textbooks is the patent-pending CampusBooks Buy Vs Rent (BvR) SuperBot. Our tool takes into account historical pricing patterns for not only your particular book, but the industry as a whole, and uses that data to predict future sale prices of your book in both rush and buyback seasons. To use the BvR tool, simply search for your book on CampusBooks and the BvR tool will automatically present you with the suggested buy or rent option, based on the total cost of ownership of the book. The BvR tool also gives you customizable options based on your unique circumstances to give you a more accurate recommendation.

In order to maximize the BvR tool and get free textbooks, or even make money on your books, you need to be flexible in when you buy and sell your books. The best strategy is to buy and sell your textbooks off season due to the fact that there are tremendous seasonal price differences. For example, the traditional back-to-school months of August, September, and January are when most students purchase their books and prices are the highest. If you are able to purchase your books in the off season, especially in December and May, you can usually find significant discounts. On the flip side, if you can sell your used books during a rush month such as August or September, you can usually make much more money on your used textbooks than if you sold during a traditional buyback month of May or December.

Of course, this is all easier said than done. The secret is to find out beforehand what books you need and to buy early. If you know what class you are going to take, and you can contact your professor ahead of class to get your book over the summer, then you will be ahead of the game. If you then sell your book in January, chances are you will have spent very little on that book. Now, if you are unable to time your book buying and selling perfectly, you can still lower your costs by hanging on to your books until the next rush month and selling then, instead of selling during the end-of-semester buyback period when buyback prices are lowest. Of course, no matter when you sell your books, you always want to keep them in as good condition as possible, since buyback companies not only pay more for better condition books, but most won’t even purchase books in poor condition.

The caveat to the textbook arbitrage strategy is future editions of your book. If a new edition comes out, your book value will take a big hit so if you should sell your book as quickly as possible if you discover a new edition is being released. You could also use this knowledge to your advantage, and purchase a cheap older edition book. Most times the content of the textbook changes very little from one edition to the next, the main difference is that an older edition book won’t have the textbook access codes so if you need the access codes, an arbitrage strategy is your best bet.

We hope this blog post saves you some money on your books and you can take full advantage of the technology available to you on CampusBooks.com.

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