College textbooks are informative, helpful in your quest for knowledge … and expensive.
They’re also used for a pretty short amount of time before becoming large, ungainly things that are often just in the way.
While some people may go back and read their old textbooks, most of us aren’t going to pick up “Introduction to Geology” for a light beach read.
Luckily, you can solve the problem and make money at the same time if you sell your textbooks.
And thanks to the wonders of the internet, it’s never been easier to do so.
In this article we’ll show you different ways that you can sell used textbooks, and give you a guide for pricing them.
We’ll also share five highly rated textbook buyback programs, and answer some frequently asked questions about selling books online.
Selling Used Textbooks
For a long time, the best way to sell used textbooks was to go to your campus bookstore at the end of the semester and see what you could get for them.
Many campus bookstores had buyback programs, but you were also at the whim of that college.
If a professor changed the textbook for the next semester, or updated to a newer version, the campus bookstore would often just turn you away.
Then online commerce got going, and things got a lot easier.
If your college wasn’t using a textbook any longer, it wasn’t the end of the world — somewhere, some college would be interested.
As more and more people wanted to sell textbooks online, it created competition among buyback programs, which also helped students looking to get money for books.
Websites began offering free shipping, easy ISBN lookups, and competitive pricing.
What was once a somewhat tough task — lugging books to the campus library, crossing your fingers that they would offer you anything for books — became a pretty painless one.
You can now use multiple sites to see competing prices for a book in a minute or two, select the one you want, get to a post office, and they’ll take care of shipping. Done.
The Different Ways to Sell Textbooks
There are basically two ways to sell textbooks online.
One is to use a buyback program, which offers you prices, sends you postage, and has you mail in the book.
The second is to go on your own, using Amazon or eBay (or even Craigslist) to list the price you want for a book and see if you can get it.
The general rule of thumb is that buyback programs are more convenient, while selling it yourself will usually get you more money.
Well, the buyback programs are basically acting as middlemen who take care of the inconvenience of actually selling the book for you.
And it’s easy: You simply enter the ISBN number, they offer you a price, you accept that price, and mail in the book.
Soon enough, money will be on the way.
However, the offers for these textbook buyback prices might be lower because these companies then need to advertise to sell these books.
They’re charging you money to handle that service.
By selling on Amazon or eBay, you’ll be doing the work.
You’ll have to create a listing, do some research on pricing of similar books, set a price, and respond to questions from potential buyers.
You’ll have to factor in shipping costs and figure out if you’ll include that in the price or pass it on as a separate fee to the buyer.
Then you’ll have to wait until it sells (these things take time, and usually people are buying textbooks online at the start of the semester, not the end).
Then when it sells you still have to package and ship it.
This won’t take too much time, but it is more than just entering an ISBN number, getting postage, and putting a book in the mail.
It all depends on what you value more — convenience, or the money you’d get for selling it.
How to Look Up ISBN
The ISBN, or International Standard Book Number, is the 10- or 13-digit number that acts as a book’s identification number.
While several books may have similar or identical titles, the ISBN allows you to know which edition of a book it is, what year it was released, and more.
ISBNs allow these sites to know exactly what book they’re getting, and quickly offer you the price that the ISBN is selling for across various bookstores.
What’s somewhat annoying is that the ISBN is located in different places depending on the book.
The first place to check is the back cover, where the number may be located preceded by “ISBN.”
If you don’t find it there, there should also be a copyright page at the beginning of the book, near the title page, that has its publishing information.
Sometimes the ISBN will be located there.
If you aren’t sure, remember that the number is typically 10 or 13 digits.
Newer books will typically have the number 978 at the beginning as well.
If you’re still not having any luck, you can try looking up the ISBN using the WorldCat network.
The only other information they may ask you for is the condition of the book, which is generally listed as either: New, Like New, Good, Fair, or Bad.
(Different sites define these in different ways, so make sure to read their criteria when offering a book for buyback.)
Also check to see if it’s an international edition, which might be different than the version sold in the United States.
5 Textbook Buyback Programs
There are a lot of competing buyback programs online right now.
Most offer the same basic services: They let you quickly look up a book and get a price quote for it, then they’ll send you a free shipping label to mail it in.
For many of these sites, the main differentiator is the price you get for some books, so it’s helpful to check a couple to see if you can get a more competitive price.
There are other differences: Some offer payment via PayPal, while others offer better prices if you take store credit.
Some have a mobile app which lets you handle everything from your smartphone.
Some insist that books be put in the mail within a couple business days, while others are more lax with time frames.
Here’s a quick rundown of five popular buyback programs:
BookFinder is a popular buyback program that allows multiple bookstores to offer prices on used books, and then lets you evaluate all the offers to pick the best price.
They include the cost of shipping and promise no hidden fees. BookFinder has also been around a while — since 1997.
BookScouter is another site that compiles offers from different buyback vendors.
Some are bookstores, some are book wholesalers, but they consult 35 of those vendors and let you evaluate them all with every search.
Barnes & Noble’s textbook buyback program lets you enter multiple ISBNs at once, so you can use the site as a one-stop shop for all your used textbooks at the end of the semester.
They offer payment in cash or as store credit, and their only condition is that you have at least $10 worth of books to sell.
CampusBooks promises to get you “the most money for your used books.”
They act as a depository for dozens of buyback sites, and say that on most textbook buybacks they’ll include a free shipping label.
They offer payment in cash, check, PayPal, or store credit.
TextbookRush gives you an easy-to-use platform for selling textbooks.
They promise that any quote is valid for seven days, so you’re able to do a price comparison at a few places before committing to the best price.
They provide shipping labels for all sales, and offer payment in cash, PayPal, and store credit.
Make Money Selling Used Books
Don’t let used textbooks go in the trash.
Using the resources listed here, you can sell back books and make money.
You’ll also be helping some other student out there find a cheaper version of a perfectly usable textbook.
School is expensive enough.
Sell your textbooks when you’re done with them.
You’ll make a little cash and help someone else save some in the process.