A Guide to Reselling College Textbooks for a Profit

College students and saving money.

These are two things that often go hand in hand.

Higher education is expensive, and it is in the best interest of students to find ways to pay less for it.

The most obvious ways would be to live frugally, take some classes online, or find a side hustle to raise extra cash.

Another way is to avoid buying unnecessary items that aren't important to your studies, like fancy pens or the best laptop on the market.

But what about the necessary ones, like textbooks, that are only needed for particular classes or semesters?

In 2021, the average cost of textbooks for full-time undergraduate courses was about $1,240 per year.

While textbooks can be expensive, they shouldn't deter you from taking your dream course. This article will explain the best ways to resell college textbooks for a profit to help you save money while in school.

Can you resell college textbooks for a profit?

65% of students skip buying a textbook because of cost.

There is little competition in the college publishing industry — five publishers dominate this niche, including McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Cengage. The five companies control about 80% of college learning material in the United States.

Because of this, students have limited choices, and prices remain high.

Sometimes, colleges and publishers sometimes employ a tactic called “inclusive access,” where the cost of textbooks is included in tuition fees.

Definition of inclusive access

Here, publishers are guaranteed a certain number of purchases, and in turn, they give a discount to colleges. Students can’t really avoid paying for these, as the cost is included in their fees.

But if you’re responsible for buying your own textbooks, you don’t necessarily have to pay full price. One way students have found to cut costs is by buying used textbooks.

The global adoption of the internet was expected to increase the demand for ebooks, but it also facilitated the growth of the used textbooks market. Digital books offer convenience, but students still have to pay the full price to access them.

eCommerce channels have allowed students to source used textbooks across the globe and have them shipped to their location. This market is so lucrative that several companies that sell used textbooks as their main product are operating successfully.

Percentage of students who rent and buy used textbooks

An example is Bookbyte, which has a wide collection of cheap textbooks for students.

Because of the demand for used textbooks, it has created a market for students to resell theirs after the semester ends. Students can then use the proceeds from the sale to get textbooks for the next class, pay for tuition fees, or even just save some money.

Options are plenty for anyone looking to sell used textbooks, and we’ll break them down here.

What are the different ways to resell college textbooks?

You can sell used textbooks in a couple of ways.

Sell to bookstores

Most colleges have bookstores that have a textbook buyback program.

These stores buy used textbooks, especially if professors plan to use them for the next semester.

This is probably the easiest way to sell your books, but stores don't just buy any textbook. They have specific quotas for the number of books they want, so try and be early. Once this quota is reached, they won't buy the book.

Pro: Bookstores will pay instantly. It's convenient as well since there are no shipping costs, and you don’t have to stay with a textbook for long trying to find a buyer.

Cons: Bookstores pay less than other channels. They plan to flip these books and make a profit as well, so they try to get them for a very low price. Besides, they only have limited quotas on the number and types of books they want.

Sell to friends or other people in-person

You can also sell textbooks to people you know.

This is a limited market, but it can work if you have a good network. Find underclassmen who are a year or semester behind you, and ask if they are willing to buy.

Pros: It's easy to find willing buyers if the price is right. This channel cuts out the middleman and allows you to charge a low price and still get a profit. No shipping is required.

Cons: Students always want to save money, and some will be skeptical of buying from you. Some won't finish the course and might ask for a refund if they don't end up needing the book.

Rent out during the semester

This is an alternative way to get money for books without selling them.

Here, you rent out the books to other students at a certain fee and have them return them when they finish the class.

It is a long-term strategy since you’ll still have the books at the end of the class.

Pros: It's easy to convince students to rent the books since they’ll pay much less.

Cons: You have to rent out textbooks a couple of times before recouping the initial investment. Some students don't handle these books well and might return them in poor condition. This method isn't one-off, and you have to follow up with students at the end of every semester to return the books.

Sell online

Today, you can sell textbooks easily online, thanks to numerous websites. Some of them buy books from you, while others connect sellers and buyers.

Pros: It’s easy to compare offers from different sites and choose the most favorable one.

Cons: Some websites require you to ship the textbook, which is an additional cost.

What are the best places to resell textbooks online?

Now that you have a few ideas on different ways to sell textbooks, here are a few places you can do so online.

Image of the best places to sell textbooks online

1. Textbookbuyer.com

Textbook Buyer only buys college textbooks.

All you need to do is ‌enter the ISBN of the book you want to sell and click on “sell used textbook.” You’ll receive a response telling you whether they are looking to buy that book at the moment.

Textbook Buyer offers free shipping via Media Mail. You’ll have to pay for the cost initially, but they'll reimburse the amount when they pay for the book.

Payments are fast, usually within one day, as long as the books are received in the condition you claimed they were in.

2. eCampus.com

eCampus is a marketplace that allows you to rent, buy, and sell textbooks.

You can choose to sell books to eCampus or other students. If you sell directly to buyers, the site claims a 15% commission on the sale amount.

Selling books is very simple. Enter the ISBN, get an instant quote, and choose a payment method. From here, ship the books to them and get paid.

You can be paid with in-store credit and use this to buy other books. There's free shipping for orders above $35.

3. Decluttr.com

Decluttr is a site that buys phones, tech items, CDs, and textbooks.

The process is fast, as you get instant quotes on books by entering the barcode or using their app to scan it.

You can then pack the books in a box and ship them for free using a prepaid shipping label that will be sent to you.

When the books get to their warehouse and are in good condition, payments are made through PayPal or Direct Deposit to a bank account.

You might be paid less if the books aren't in the condition you described them.

4. Student2student.com

Student2Student is a platform that connects students who are selling textbooks to others who want to buy.

Sellers can create a listing and meet interested buyers on campus for the exchange. There are no shipping costs, and the service is free.

Listings are categorized for each school to connect buyers and sellers in the same school. There’s a comparison tool that buyers can use to find the lowest buyback prices online if no one is selling the book in their school.

5. Valorebooks.com

Valorebooks is a dedicated online marketplace for buying, selling, and renting used textbooks.

The marketplace has instant quotes and reliable pricing to cut negotiations and auctions. Shipping is also free, as they’ll send you a prepaid shipping label.

However, there's a high-quality standard, as the marketplace only accepts books that are in good condition and not extensively damaged. The book's ISBN must also match the ones provided by the platform.

Payments are completed through checks and Paypal and can take between 2 to 14 days.

6. Gotextbooks.com

Gotextbooks is an online buyer that’ll pay for your old textbooks.

They offer instant quotes, free shipping, and process payments once the books get to their warehouses.

However, they have a strict list of requirements that all books must meet for them to warrant the full amount indicated in the quote. If they don't meet the requirements, the price will be revised, and someone will contact you to seek approval.

Those in bad condition will be rejected and then purged after 14 days if the seller doesn’t put in a request to have them returned at their expense.

7. Amazon.com

You can sell used textbooks to Amazon through their trade-in program.

Go to their trade-in store and select Books. Here, key in the book's ISBN and answer a few questions about the condition of the book.

Always give an accurate description of the book’s condition to avoid cases where the offer is withdrawn. Payments are made through Amazon gift cards.

8. eBay.com

eBay is an auction site where you can sell old books to the highest bidder. Alternatively, you can list it for a fixed price.

Do your research to find out if the book is in demand or not. Putting a book that isn't in demand on auction will force you to sell it at a low price.

You'll have to pay for shipping.

9. Abebooks.com

Abebooks is a great place to sell used textbooks, but be prepared to do some work. The process isn't as simple as it is with the other platforms listed here.

You need to register as a seller, set up a store, and pay a monthly subscription fee to have your books exposed to potential buyers on the platform.

The subscription fee is calculated based on the number of items you list in your store. You also have to set up your own shipping options. Used textbooks usually fetch good prices here.

Abebooks has partnered with TextbookRush and Ziffit to help those who don't want to go through the hectic process. These two platforms give instant quotes for anyone looking to sell a few used textbooks.

10. BookScouter.com

BookScouter won’t buy your used textbooks, but it will aggregate prices from multiple buyers to show the best price.

This is a good starting point if you want the best price for your textbooks.

Not all ‌buyers will be looking to buy that book at that time, but you might get a few. If you find one, you can ship the book for free and receive payments when the package is received.

11. Booksrun.com

Booksrun is a platform that sells, buys, and rents used textbooks. They accept ebooks as well.

They have an expedited process to get instant quotes, free shipping, and payments processed within four days.

You can sell most textbooks here since they accept a wide range of subjects. Their customer service is excellent, and you can reach them via phone, email, or live chat for support.

12. Bookfinder.com

Bookfinder aggregates popular bookselling options and gives you the best place to sell your used textbooks.

It is a good place to compare what buyers can offer for your book and pick one. If you find a favorable one, you can click through to the buyer’s link and sell your textbook.

The terms and process depend on the buyer you select.

Tips to get the best returns on used textbooks

Many students sell textbooks online, and like any other business, there's competition. You need to stand out from the rest if you want to get good returns from ‌textbooks. Here are a few tips to excel in this venture.

Timing is key

Students don't just buy textbooks at any time. Those that are done with textbooks mostly sell them at the end of the semester.

However, an analysis of the search terms “sell textbooks” and “buy textbooks'' shows that the best time to sell is a month before the semester starts. This is late July going to early August and in December before the spring classes start.

Graph showing interest in search term “sell textbooks”

A month after these semesters start, schools no longer accept changes in their classes. Students would have already gotten what they needed for the semester, and very few will want to buy textbooks.

Graph showing interest in search term buy textbooks

Keep your books in top condition

Most of the platforms listed above will pay the full amount for books in good condition.

When you buy textbooks, take care of them from the first day until classes are done. A few ways to make sure they remain in good condition are:

  • Cover hardback books
  • Organize your bag when carrying textbooks
  • Keep the books away from water
  • Only open additional resources such as CDs when required
  • Highlight sections and take notes in a separate writing book
  • Keep the book in a safe place and only carry it when needed.

Price it right

Always tame your expectations when selling used textbooks.

Demand determines prices. If a book wasn’t key to your course, don't automatically assume that you’ll get ‌top dollar for it. Very few students might be interested in buying it.

Leverage the aggregator sites to check what buyers are willing to offer for a title. This will give you an idea of how much to expect for that book at that time.

If you choose to sell at auction sites like eBay, you might get more for the book. However, if you price it above what everyone else is offering, you likely won’t find a buyer.

College bookstores will probably give you about 50% of the original value. Online stores and buyback sites will give anything between 35% and 70% of the original value. In places where you set the price, always adjust them to reflect the market price.

Conclusion

Student loans have made college education accessible to many, but costs don't end at tuition. Course materials make up a significant chunk of these costs, but students can resell them and make money.

This space is growing thanks to the high prices of new textbooks and the demand for used ones.

However, selling used textbooks is like a business, and you have to get a few things right. Luckily, the online space has opened multiple platforms where you can sell, but nothing is guaranteed.

Plan to sell textbooks from the moment you buy them. Take care of them, and consult potential buyers when the time is right.

Successful year-on-year sales will save you lots of money without having to compromise on course materials.

For more guides on how to save money, check out CouponFollow.

about the author

Marc Mezzacca
Marc Mezzacca is CEO of CouponFollow, a consumer savings engine that surfaces popular coupons. He has been in the coupon and deals industry for over a decade with a deep interest in evolving e-commerce technologies.