The Best Ways to Sell Your Used Textbooks


A man decides to sell used textbooks and asks "Can I get full price for these since I never opened them before I flunked out?"You may remember that we’ve talked about the best ways to save money when you’re buying your textbooks, but we haven’t helped you out with selling them back… until now. Buying textbooks generally feels like a swift kick to the bank account, especially if you need to pick up generic math or science textbooks, but you can make a fair bit of change back if you decide not to keep all of your books at the end of each term. Remember, though, if you rented your textbooks at the beginning of the year, you must return them; you can’t sell them back in an attempt to work the system. (Well, you could, but you’ll lose more money than you make when the company you rented them from ultimately charges you full price.)

To get the most money for your books, you need to keep them in really good shape, think “excellent used condition” on Amazon. This means that you don’t want to tear out any of the pages, leave dog-ear creases, or highlight or underline any of the text. If you are someone who likes to make notes in your books (which dramatically decreases resale value), consider using post-its for your in-text notes. The more damage there is to a book—say, if you bought it used and there were already marks and tears—the less money that you’re going to get when you resell it again. What you’ll earn also depends on the type of book. A single Shakespeare play in paperback is going to resell for something like $0.50, so it may be better to just keep it or donate it to charity. Your big, hardcover calculus textbook, on the other hand, may net you upwards of $50.

Here are your options:

1. Sell your textbooks back to an online retailer, regardless of where you originally bought them. You can input each textbook’s ISBN number into the bigwords.com search engine and it will search hundreds of websites and show you the price for which you can sell your books on each of them (obviously, go with the highest price listed). Some websites have a minimum that you must meet before they will initiate a textbook buyback, while others will pay you in-store credit (Amazon.com may do this). Still others will mail you a check, pay you via PayPal, or directly credit your bank account after they check the condition of your book. Provided the book is in the condition you tell the retailer, the amount of money you receive shouldn’t change from the estimate.

2. List your textbooks for sale yourself using an online retailer. This is a little bit different from the option above. Instead of selling directly to Amazon.com, you’re selling directly to a customer on the retailer’s platform. You can do this on the Amazon marketplace and Half.com. Barnes and Noble also offers a marketplace for sellers, and you may see it listed when you check prices on bigwords.com, but unless you have a year of experience selling books online, you are unlikely to be approved as a seller by Barnes and Noble management. Both Amazon and Half.com will charge you commission for selling on their sites, so be sure to check how much money you will earn by using other methods to sell to ensure you get the best deal.

  • On Amazon, you have to register as a seller. While businesses that sell on Amazon have to pay fees, if you’re only looking to sell a few items, you can register as an individual to skip the monthly fee (you will have to pay $0.99 for each item you sell, plus a commission). From there, you can list your item’s price, condition, and shipping fee.
  • Half.com is actually an Ebay subsidiary, but only the sale of books, textbooks, movies, games, and music is permitted. First you have to sign up for an account, after which you can register yourself as a seller. Half.com requires that you enter your bank account information so that the company can directly credit you any profits that you receive from your sales. You will be charged commission by half.com for selling your items on its platform; this ranges from 15–25% depending on the list price. You will be reimbursed a flat rate for shipping.

3. List your textbooks for sale yourself without going through a retailer. You can use a site like Craigslist or Facebook or go through your school’s classifieds. You may be able to advertise “for sale” items in the school newspaper, online, or on the school’s Facebook page. It’s easier to sell to another student at your school, since you won’t be liable for shipping charges or meeting up with a stranger from the internet. (If you do go the Craigslist or Facebook marketplace route and someone wants to buy your items, don’t go alone when you meet them, and it’s best to ask that payments be made in cash; checks can bounce.) You’ll probably get a hit from another student if the class is being offered next semester, your book is in good shape, and you list your book for sale as soon as you’re finished with it. Other students are going to have the same idea.

4. Sell your textbooks back to your college bookstore. If the class isn’t going to be offered in the future, it’s unlikely that the bookstore is going to purchase the book back from you. The same goes for classes in which the edition of the required textbook may change (often, though, changes between editions are minimal, and you may find that you have better luck selling your textbook to another student who plans to take the class, even if the bookstore won’t take it). You also want to get ahead of the pack; sometimes bookstores will limit the number of a particular book that they will buy back. Ensure yours is one of the chosen ones by selling your books as early as possible (though obviously not while you still may need them). The prices may not be great at the bookstore, but unless there’s a change in curriculum, you’re unlikely to come away entirely unsuccessful.

A girl wants to sell used textbooks so she goes to the bookstore.

It may not be a ton of money, but what you earn from textbooks could (if you’re responsible) go toward next semester’s books or (if you’re more fun-loving) toward a movie date and some ice cream. It’s the end of the school year; you deserve to have a little fun with cash that you wouldn’t have otherwise!


About Megan Clendenon

Megan C. is obsessed with Cincinnati-style chili, Louisville basketball, and Scandinavian crime fiction. She has lived in six different states and held 12 different jobs since beginning her undergraduate degree at Carleton College in 2008. The wanderlust abated somewhat in recent years, as Megan settled in Texas from 2013 to 2016 to finish a master’s degree in geosciences, write a thesis on the future horrors that stem from climate change, and get married. During her free time, you will find Megan sitting on the couch, cheering for her Louisville Cardinals, planning future adventures abroad, and snuggling with her dog, Tiger. She currently lives outside of Washington D.C.

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