Students at public four-year colleges spend about $1,225 a year on textbooks. It's an unavoidable expense, but that doesn't mean students can't get their money back.
If you're smart about how you buy your textbooks (or even rent your textbooks), and you make it a focus to resell your textbooks after class - you might not find yourself as hard up as you'd have thought.
Some savvy students have even found ways to make profits when reselling their textbooks. Try these five ways to make money from your textbooks so you'll have extra cash for other expenses.
Ways To Resell Your Textbooks
First, there are multiple ways to resell your textbooks - and each has pros and cons.
1. Sell Used Textbooks to The College Bookstore
Most college bookstores will buy back used textbooks, especially if professors plan to use the same text next semester.
Pros: Bookstores will often pay you cash within minutes. Some people feel that convenience is worth more than money.
Cons: If you sell your books to a bookstore, don't expect to turn a profit. College bookstores need to make money reselling the books they buy from you. That encourages them to pay you as little as possible.
2. Sell Your Textbooks Online
Many students buy textbooks online to save money. If you already have books, you can use those sites to sell books to other students.
Pros: Websites like eCampus make it easy to compare buyback prices so you don't get ripped off. Selling online is also really easy. Just enter the book's information, wait for it to sell, and collect your profits.
Cons: Shipping textbooks might be inconvenient if you don't live near a post office. The good news is that some websites will pay your shipping expenses.
3. Sell Used Books Directly to Students
Some of your underclassmen will need to get the same textbooks you bought last semester. You can sell your books directly to these students.
Pros: You can potentially make a profit by cutting out the middleman.
Cons: Finding a buyer isn't always easy. Even students who want to save money might feel uncomfortable paying you for textbook. There's also the possibility that students will drop some classes. When that happens, they may come to you for a refund. You don't have to give them their money back, but it's an awkward conversation that can make you look like the bad guy on campus.
4. Auction Textbooks Online
Use auction websites to advertise and sell your old textbooks. Of course, we're thinking of eBay here.
Pros: If you have a popular textbook, you can make a tidy profit from buyers who bid against each other.
Cons: Since students who use auction sites expect to save money, they're often unwilling to pay the full value of textbooks.
5. Know The Peak Resale Dates
Based on historical data from textbook resellers, here are the peak dates each year. May 4 through June 15 is historically peak textbook selling.
Based on historical trends, we think that May 11, May 18, and May 27 through 30 will be the peak resale dates this year.
Bonus Idea: Rent Your Textbooks During the Semester
You can rent your books instead of buying and then having to resell them.
Pros: Students are willing to spend more money on textbooks when they really need them. By renting your textbooks during the semester, you can get money from students who didn't plan ahead. You also have the opportunity to make more cash by renting your books several times.
Cons: There's no guarantee that you will get your books back. Even honest people might simply forget to return them when they're done. That means you'll have to waste time finding them.
With a little planning, it's possible to make a profit reselling your textbooks. Which method works best for you?
Best Places To Resell Your Textbooks
Now that you have some different ideas of ways to resell your textbooks, where can you actually do it? Here are our favorite places to do it!
AbeBooks is a great place to resell your textbooks, but it does require a bit more work than some of the other places on this list. You setup your own shop, ship your own products, and basically run your own store. However, they do have great prices as a result.
Amazon is the market leader in textbooks and one of the largest online marketplaces in the world. When it comes to reselling textbooks, Amazon makes it incredibly easy. All you have to do it enter the ISBN number, and you can quickly list your textbook. You do have to ship out your own book when it sells.
3. Barnes and Noble
I think a lot of people forget about Barnes and Noble being online, not just a store, but they have a huge website and a great textbook resell program. They also make the process of reselling your textbooks easy, by simply having you enter your book's ISBN number, accepting their offer, and sending in your books.
The only drawback is your books have to be worth at least $10.
BookByte focuses a lot of its effort on textbook buyback, and they make the process easy. You simply enter your book information, accept the offer, and send back your books. They offer free shipping back on any textbook valued at $10 or more.
BookScouter is another textbook selling search engine that compares 35 different vendors for you to sell your textbook. If you like an offer, accept it, send back your books, and get paid.
BooksRun allows you to sell both your textbooks and eBooks on their website. This is one of the only companies we've seen that facilitates eBook sales. Similar to the other companies, you simply enter you book information, accept the offer, send it in, and get paid.
7. Campus Books
CampusBooks is a search engine to help you find the best places to resell your books. However, they also help you streamline the process. You search their site, print the label, and then get paid. Most of the companies they search offer free shipping labels as well.
Just like it sounds, this site lets you easily get cash for your books. A little dated, but still fully functional - the website allows you to enter your book information, get a quote, and get paid via check or PayPal.
Chegg is one of the oldest online textbook companies, and they allow you to sell your textbooks back just like the other companies on this list. You get a quote, ship it back for free, and get paid. Chegg uses UPS, which means you can also drop your box off at a UPS store to save time and effort.
Craiglist isn't necessarily known for reselling books, but it can be an easy way to do it, especially if you want to connect locally with someone. There aren't a lot of tools here to help, but you can simply make a listing and see if anyone buys it.
You might not think about Decluttr as a way to sell your own textbooks, but it can work great in many cases. Just like you would normally do, you can enter the ISBN or scan the book in your app, then send your books in. Quick and easy!
eBay is the best auction site to sell your textbooks. This has the potential to get you top dollar, but on the flip side, there is more work involved in reselling your books here. You have to take pictures, but the listing together, and wait the 7 days plus payment time.
Knetbooks is more well known for textbook rental, but they also have a textbook resell option. One of the factors that distinguishes them is that they have a direct deposit option that allows you to get paid right into your bank account.
Slugbooks is one of the few companies on this list that helps you market your textbook via Facebook. Just like the other companies, you can list your book, but Slugbooks help you promote it as well.
Student2Student is a marketplace designed to connect students on campus to resell and buy textbooks. Instead of searching and shipping, you can create a listing on your campus, accept an offer, and then meet the buyer at your school.
ValoreBooks advertises that it can help you get the most cash for your used textbooks. Like most of the other options, you simply enter your ISBN number, get a quote, and ship the textbook back to them. They can then pay you by check or PayPal.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.