There is a ritual almost every student must go through when starting a new semester: buying textbooks. While many of us would not hesitate to drop a couple hundred dollars on a new electronic that we’ve been wanting or a couple weeks’ worth of good food, when it comes to buying textbooks we morph into the Grinch and suddenly $50 seems too much for our “meager college budgets.”
As a notoriously frugal student (so much so that my “cheapness” has become infamous among my group of friends), I am always striving to pay as little as possible for textbooks each semester while making the most profit I can when I sell them back. If you would like to save money and maybe even make some profit, here is how you should go about buying and selling your textbooks.
Search for a digital copy of the textbook. Popular textbooks, such as those for core or general education classes, will more often than not have already been uploaded online by former students, a university department, or a random Good Samaritan. For best results, Google your textbook name, the edition number, and the word “PDF” to see if there is a digital copy of your textbook available. So for example, “Introduction to Algorithms 3rd edition PDF” would be a good search query. You can also shorten the edition number to “3E” (the 2nd edition would thus be “2E”).
To save the most money, buy your textbooks from other students. Why? One word: haggling. Buying from students gives you the power to negotiate the price of the book, and usually buyers can talk sellers down by at least 10 percent of the selling price. Most student buyers can be found on social media, such as the Facebook “Free and for sale” group. Students are more desperate to get rid of their books than companies, so you will always get a lower price. In addition, some classes require special editions of textbooks just for Ohio State and trying to find these textbooks elsewhere or buying direct from the publisher is both pricy and inconvenient (whereas students will have them for cheaper).
To make the most money, sell your textbooks online. For the same reason that you should buy from other students, keep in mind that selling to them will not generate the most money. There will likely be many people trying to sell the same book, and buyers will be relentless in their negotiations. Prices for textbooks will almost always be higher if sold online than in person. Personally, I’ve sold a loose-leaf marketing textbook that I purchased for $80 for $120 on Amazon. There are some inconveniences, however, such as the fact that you will have to ship the book and there may not be as much demand. If you want a quick sell, sell to students. If you don’t mind waiting for a (potentially more lucrative) sale, sell online.
Try to buy your textbooks before the beginning of the semester. The first week of classes is when everyone receives their syllabi and begins searching for all of the textbooks they need. You’ll have competition when buying, which drives prices up and makes it more difficult for you to secure a sale (you may not be the highest or fastest offer). There will be less people to compete with and likely more guaranteed sales. The downside is that people may not be listing their textbooks at the end of the semester, so you don’t have as many options.
Try to sell your textbooks at the beginning of the semester. For the same reason that you should buy your textbooks before the beginning of the semester, selling at the beginning is beneficial because there is more demand. You will likely receive multiple offers, which allows you to choose the highest. There will be more buyers in the market, so you’ll be able to get rid of your inventory much faster. Demand will slow down after the first two weeks or so, so be sure to sell quickly or you might have to wait until the next semester.
Having to buy textbooks is the bane of almost every student’s college career, and one of the biggest complaints is that textbook prices are rising every year. Another frustration is that publishers keep “updating” the textbook editions, making seemingly incremental changes and then charging 50 percent more for the “new” edition. Some professors will let you use the old editions of textbooks, but they emphasize that any differences will be the responsibility of the students to resolve.
It definitely pays off to be economically-minded when buying and selling textbooks, however, because there will be four years’ worth. To save (and possibly make) money, consider all your options when deciding where and when to buy and sell.