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Cyndi AllisonTextbook Buybacks

How to Get a Better Return

By Cyndi Allison

Textbooks are expensive. Although you may consider some of your books valuable and keep them for future reference, most texts end up back in the system. Typically the campus store will purchase books back at 50 percent of sticker price and then resell at 75 percent sticker or list price. Of course, this is assuming that the book is going to be used on campus in the upcoming semester. If the book is not a sure bet or if an overload of copies comes in, then you’re stuck with a few dollars back or maybe nothing at all.

If you’re going the bookstore route, then you’re missing out on online options. Internet book buying/selling generally means lower overall prices for buyers and higher return rates for sellers. It’s a great option for students, especially returning students who can often wait out the market.

How Does Online Book Buyback Work?

There are two different ways of selling textbooks online. The first option is similar to the bookstore method. You sell to the company, and then the company sells your book to another student. This is indirect, since you don’t have any contact with the buyer. The second option involves direct sales. Although the online company matches sellers and buyers and generally handles pay out, the seller sets the price and handles mailing out the book to the buyer. Selling to a bookstore merchant online is usually faster and easier, but direct selling is usually more profitable.

Selling to the Online Book Company

Many online bookstores actively buy used texts from students and then resell the texts. Some specialize in texts while other companies sell mainstream as well as textbooks. For a good solid list of stores to check out, see the Discount Textbook Section.

Assume that you purchased News Reporting & Writing by Melvin Mencher (1999 version with ISBN 0-31218-0195). List price is $55.95. The text is not being used on your campus next semester. Although your local bookstore may buy the book and then pack it to ship out, they probably will not offer you more than a couple of dollars. In most cases, your store will probably pass on an iffy investment like a discontinued on-campus book.

Take that same text online to Textbooks 4 Cash. Type in the ISBN number and check the buyback price—$15.86 new and $13.44 used. If your copy is in used condition, and most students do use the books, then your actual cost for the use of the book after selling it back is $42.51. Let’s say you bought the book used at the College Store at 75% or $41.96. Then your text use price drops to $28.52. If you bought online and got the book for half the list price and sell back to Textbooks 4 Cash, then you end up paying only $14.35 for the use of the book.

When you sell directly to an online company, then you know immediately if the book is in demand (the company wants to buy it) and how much you’ll be paid for the book (assuming you accurately represented the condition of the book). You simply box up the book, ship out to the online company, and wait for the check to come in the mail. At some point, you will probably be able to get even faster payment by setting up and using a Pay Pal or a similar online service account for immediate transfer.

Barnes and Noble recently added textbook buyback, and other book companies will probably follow suit. At B&N, you’ll need to click on textbooks on the top bar menu and then look to the left for the buyback information. Buyback at B&N is not as user friendly as some of the older textbook broker companies, but this does mark the entrance of a major brick and mortar bookseller in the textbook buyback market. The big drawing card with B&N currently is that they send you the mailing label with postage paid. Since textbooks are heavy, this is a nice bonus. Other textbook buyers do offset for shipping, but you pay upfront for shipping and then get reimbursed.


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