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How & Where to Sell Your Used College Textbooks for Cash


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At the start of the semester, when you’re shelling out what seems like a king’s ransom for your college textbooks, sometimes, the promise of reselling at least a few of those books at the end of the term is what keeps you going.

The end of the semester rolls around, and you bring your gently used textbooks to the school store. Instead of getting the stack of cash you were hoping for, the bookstore offers you a few dollars. What gives?

Despite what your college bookstore wants you to believe, the books you bought for class have resale value. The trick is figuring out where to sell them so you get the biggest return possible.

Where to Sell Used College Textbooks

There are a few routes you can take to get more cash for your used textbooks, from selling your books to an online bookstore to selling directly to other students.

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1. Decluttr

Decluttr buys books and textbooks, DVDs, CDs, Legos, video games, and phones and devices. If you have more than textbooks to unload, Decluttr is the way to go.

There are two ways to see if Decluttr accepts your books: Type the international standard book number, or ISBN, the number listed near the barcode, into the website or download the Decluttr app, and scan your books’ barcodes with it. The site then gives you a price for the book or lets you know it’s not currently buying that title.

If you accept the price, it’s locked in for 28 days, meaning you have that long to box up your books or other media and send them to Decluttr. The site gives you a prepaid label, so all you need to do is find a sturdy box and head to the post office.

To use Decluttr, you need to send in at least 10 pieces of media or one tech gadget, and your total needs to be more than $5. Once your shipment gets to the company’s warehouse, someone unpacks and reviews it. If all is well and the books are in good enough condition, Decluttr issues your payment via PayPal or direct deposit the next day.

2. BookByte

The process of selling to BookByte is very similar to selling to Decluttr. You type in the ISBNs of your textbooks, the site gives you a quote, you decide to accept it or not, you get a prepaid label, and you mail in your books.

If you accept BookByte’s price, it gets locked in for 30 days. The company asks that you ship your books within seven calendar days of getting the quote, as it can take up to 10 days for the books to arrive. After BookByte receives your books, it needs three to five days to process them and verify they’re in saleable condition. If BookByte accepts your books, it issues your payment via check or PayPal immediately, though checks usually take three to seven business days to arrive.

3. GoTextbooks

If you decide to use GoTextbooks, the process is similar. But two things set it apart: the grace period and shipping method. After you get your quote and print your shipping label, you have only seven days to send the books. The label expires on the eighth day. You also ship them from UPS instead of the post office.

GoTextbooks takes about five days to review and process books once they receive them. If it accepts your books, the company pays you by check or PayPal. A check will arrive at your house anywhere from one to two weeks after acceptance. A PayPal payment can take between two and 14 days to appear.

4. Cash4Books

After you search for your book’s ISBN on Cash4Books, it gives you a price quote that’s good for up to 48 hours. Once you’ve entered all your books and agreed to the company’s quote, you have five days to package your books and ship them from either the post office or FedEx, depending on how many books you’re selling.

Once the company gets your books, it reviews them to make sure they’re in saleable condition and issues your payment via PayPal or a paper check. Cash4Books says the average person gets paid 13 days after they click “Sell My Books” on the site, depending on your proximity to its location and how long the mail takes to arrive. It issues payment one day after processing and accepting books.

5. Powell’s

Powell’s Books, a massive used bookstore in Portland, Oregon, doesn’t exclusively deal in textbooks, but it’s likely to buy them from you. The store also buys back general books, such as novels, cookbooks, and self-help guides. To see their offer for a particular book, put in the ISBN on their site. You’ll get a quote or a notification that Powell’s isn’t buying that title at the time.

You must have at least seven books they’re willing to buy or have books with a value of at least $9 to sell to Powell’s. Quotes are good for seven days.

The process is similar to the other companies that buy back books. If you agree to the price offered, you print a shipping label, send your books, and wait to get paid. Powell’s gives you the option of taking store credit, usually for a higher value, or or receiving payment via PayPal. The bookstore doesn’t provide specific details about how long it takes to receive payment but says it processes the payment as soon as it has verified the books’ condition.

6. ValoreBooks

It’s a similar deal at ValoreBooks: Provide the ISBN, get a price quote, and decide to proceed or not. If you go forward, you have 14 days from the time you accept your quote to box up your books, affix the prepaid label, and send them.

Once the company gets and approves your books, it issues a payment by check or PayPal. A check can take up to two weeks to arrive, while a PayPal payment usually appears in your account within two to seven days. Along with books, ValoreBooks accepts DVDs, CDs, and video games.

7. TextbookRush

TextbookRush lets you search for your books using the ISBN, title, author’s name, or keywords. From there, it tells you if it’s currently buying the title and how much they’re willing to pay. The site also accepts used video games and movies.

Once you agree to the quote, you have seven days to send your books and media using the prepaid label provided. When the company receives and approves your shipment, it pays you by check, PayPal, or store credit. PayPal payments and store credit are typically available the next day, while it can take up to 10 days for a check to arrive.

8. Other Students

If you don’t mind the effort of pricing the books, listing them, and shipping them one by one, you’re likely to get the best resale price for your books if you sell them directly to buyers. There are several ways to accomplish that:

  • Sell Online. You can cut out the middleman entirely and create a seller’s account on a site like Amazon or eBay. Becoming an online seller means you get more money for your books, but it also involves doing a bit more work. Whether you use Amazon or eBay, you must price and list each book yourself and might have to take care of shipping too.
  • Sell Locally. Another option is to create ads for your books and sell them within your local community. For example, you can create a post on Craigslist describing what you have and the price you want for each book. If you live in a dorm room, you can create a flyer listing each of your books and post it in the common area or lounge.
  • Sell to Your Friend Network. If your friends are going to take the classes you just finished, they might be happy to buy your books for much less than they would pay at the school bookstore (and more than you’d get if you resold it to the bookstore).
  • Sell on Social Media. Social media can also be a way to unload your textbooks for cash. You can make a post or two advertising your books or list them on a social selling site like Facebook Marketplace or LetGo. Community-focused app Nextdoor also has a stuff-for-sale section where you can list your books.

When selling your books directly, either to a fellow student on campus, a neighbor, or online, price each book competitively. Your used books should cost less than new copies, but you don’t want to set the price so low the effort of selling them isn’t worth it.

A few factors can help you pick the best prices for your books:

  • The Price of Other Copies. Before you list your books for sale, take a peek at how other sellers are pricing theirs. If the prices aren’t too low, set your prices just a bit lower to give yourself the competitive edge. Another option is to price your book the same or slightly higher but offer free shipping.
  • The Age of the Book. Older editions of textbooks usually get a lower price compared to up-to-date editions. If your books are older or new editions are about to be released, you might need to cut a bit off the price.
  • The Condition of the Book. You can sell a book in pristine condition for more than a book with rounded corners or writing on its pages.
  • The Availability of the Book. Supply and demand play a part in the used textbook market. The more copies there are of a particular book, the lower the price of each copy. If you happen to be selling a textbook that’s hard to find, such as an out-of-print book one professor insists on keeping on the syllabus, you can set a higher price for it compared to a book that’s still in print and readily available.

How to Get the Most Money for Your Textbooks

It helps to be realistic when selling your textbooks. You’re most likely not going to get much for each copy, even if you sell directly to another student. That said, there are things you can do to increase the sale price of each book.

1. Get the Timing Right

At the end of the semester, everyone is rushing to get rid of the books from their just-completed classes. There’s a sense of finality that comes with selling your books: The class is really over.

But so many students selling their books all at once floods the market. Resellers get overwhelmed and might cut the price they offer or refuse to buy certain copies altogether.

It’s better to wait to sell your books until people actually need them. The start of the semester can often be ideal, especially if you’re going to sell directly to other students.

If you try to sell your books at the end of the term and nobody buys them, give it a month or so and try again.

2. Take Good Care of Your Books

Whether you decide to sell your books yourself or go through a third-party seller, do what you can throughout the semester to keep your books in good condition. While some pencil or pen marks on the inside of a book won’t be a deal breaker, a buyer is likely to reject a text covered in colorful highlighter or with lengthy notes in the margins.

Resellers will most likely turn down books that don’t meet specific criteria. For example, your books need to have their covers, and those covers need to be intact. The books need to have all their pages too. If the textbook came with a CD or other supplementary materials, include those materials when you sell it.

If you can, avoid getting your books wet or dirty. Don’t bring them into the bathroom with you. If you don’t have a waterproof backpack, wrap your books in plastic before tucking them into your backpack so that they don’t get soaked on rainy days.

Also avoid eating over your books so you don’t spill food or drink on them. If you snack while you study, get into the habit of holding your snacks away from the books.

3. Choose the Right Shipping Method

While resellers cover the books’ shipping for you, if you’re going to sell directly to buyers, you must pack and ship each book one by one or per order. To cut down on shipping costs, especially if you plan to offer free shipping to buyers, send your books media mail.

Media mail is one of the most cost-effective shipping methods. It’s available from the U.S. Postal Service, and you can only use it to ship media materials such as books, DVDs, and CDs. The shipping method takes a bit longer than other options, usually between two and eight days.

4. Choose the Right Reseller

If you’re not selling your books directly, finding the right reseller for your textbooks can take a bit of trial and error. One company can give you a really low quote or refuse to buy a book at all, while another company offers more.

It pays to shop your books around. You can use a tool like BookScouter to see which sites offer the best price for each book and which sites are currently accepting the titles you have.

Just type each book’s ISBN into the site. The website searches through 30 vendors who buy back books and lets you know which one offers the best price. From there, you can visit each vendor’s website to finalize the sale and arrange for shipping and payment.

Since many vendors have minimum buy-back amounts, it sometimes makes sense to go with a vendor that’s willing to buy back several books rather than find a vendor offering the highest price on a single volume. Depending on how many books you have and the offers you get, you can sell your books to more than one reseller to get the most cash.

Also, the book titles resellers accept change over time. If they refuse a particular title one month, it can be worth it to check back later to see if they’ll buy it.

Final Word

You might not get back every cent you spent on textbooks when you sell them, but you can expect to get back at least a little bit of cash. Along with selling your books when you’re finished with them, you can save money by buying used books, finding ways to cut the costs of school supplies, and using the library when you can.

Do you plan to sell your college textbooks? What method do you plan to use?


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Amy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia, PA. Her interest in personal finance and budgeting began when she was earning an MFA in theater, living in one of the most expensive cities in the country (Brooklyn, NY) on a student's budget. You can read more of her work on her website, Amy E. Freeman.