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Textbook Buybacks
(Continued from 3)

If You Decide to Go it On Your Own

If you decide to market and sell your texts, you’ll be going into business (though on a small scale). Make sure know what you’re getting into. Read the web page carefully before starting out. All companies have specific expectations that are carefully outlined on site for review or print out.

After you set up an account, you’ll need to list your books for sale. The key is to ask fair prices and describe the conditions of the books. Sites generally provide solid guidelines. They know the market, so pay attention.

If the site suggests going half the price, then you may go a bit higher . . . but not a lot higher. The seller on eBay with News Reporting & Writing listed at $69.95 is not likely to sell the text, which lists at $55.95. Who would pay more for a used book than for a brand new copy?

If you have a book with very few listings, then you may be able to go higher. For instance, I bought How to Write and Sell Your Personal Experiences by Lois Duncan for $8.00 with a book jacket list of $12.95. This is an old title and out-of-print, so I would not expect to get the book for half or less of the original price. In fact, I was thrilled to get the book for $8.00 and would have gone higher.

When you describe the books, be specific. If you highlight your texts, then say so (which can actually be a plus). If you wrote your name on the cover, then mention it. Bent or scuffed on the corners? Say so. Most buyers aren’t concerned about minor use, but they do want to know before they buy. If you’re not sure how to describe your books, then check out how other sellers are listing the conditions.

My Books are Listed. What Now?

If you have books listed, then watch your email. If you can’t check every day or every other day, then pull the books down for a while or click the “vacation” option. I know I’ll be away a week next month, and I plan to put my books on hold during that time. If someone wants to buy a book and I don’t confirm by email in 48 hours, then the sale is cancelled (and I don’t look like a very responsible seller).

Once you confirm, mail the book. In many cases, students need the book yesterday. Although it’s fine to use media mail (slower but lower priced) unless instructed to do otherwise, you want to mail as soon as you can.

It’s a good idea to have a mailing plan in place, so you are ready when you sell a book. If you’re not sure how to handle mail-outs, then here is an easy list covering the basics:

  • Double check the book and make sure you are mailing out the right book.
  • Cushion and stabilize the text. I use a bubble wrap and packing tape once horizontal and once vertical.
  • Put in a sturdy box. I save and use old boxes if they are thick and well made.
  • Add packing. I reuse packing material like popcorn or use slick magazine pages. Newspaper print tends to rub off and can decrease the value of the book.
  • Tape up the box including corners.
  • Label carefully including return address (your address and not the dot com address).
  • Write “media mail” on the box unless you’re asked to mail faster at a higher cost.
  • Insure if the book is worth more than a few dollars.

It’s also nice to include a short, personal note. I stick an inexpensive note card in thanking the student for buying and wishing them well in class.

Why Should I Go the Extra Mile?

Most direct sale sites give buyers the option to rate sellers. It’s really helpful to know if you can count on the person at the other end of the online chain. Most buyers do look at the ratings and are more likely to buy if you have a high rating. If you price fairly, describe well, and mail out fast, then you should rate high, and buyers are more likely to buy your books.

If you have a textbook gathering dust on the shelf, pull it out and sell it. Someone will be thrilled to get a good price on a used book, and you’ll have a few extra dollars to put in your wallet. It doesn’t take a lot of time and effort though research and planning will mean a smoother transaction and better shot at being an online text bookseller.


Cyndi Allison is a lecturer at Catawba College and a freelance writer.

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