Buyback Tips to Sell Your Textbooks

By Alyssa Laffitte on December 22, 2018

Now that it is the end of the semester, many college students are thinking, “what do I do with a textbook you no longer need?” Thankfully, there are many options that will help you take books off your hands. Many retailers, both physical and online, will have a textbook “buyback” program, meaning they will buy your textbook back from you.

Selling your unwanted textbook back to your campus bookstore or an online retailer is a great option to help make some money off your expensive book, while also allowing the book to go to a student who will actually use it. It’s especially convenient if you don’t want to keep the book. But in order for the retailer to “buy back” your textbook, the book needs to be in a certain condition.

Of course, this is understandable, because the next student who uses your textbook will not be pleased if the book they paid for is in bad condition. If you plan to have a retailer “buy back” your book, keep it in good condition, or else you risk not being able to resell it. In this article, we’ll discuss some tips to ensure that your textbook is “buyback” quality!

Image via Isorepublic.com

When should I “buy back” my unwanted books?

Before you get excited about the idea of making money off your textbooks and getting rid of them, take a minute to consider whether your books are worth selling. Sometimes, it is better to keep the textbook than to sell it.

There are some cases in which you should keep your textbooks, even if you are finished with the classes. For example, you should keep the textbooks you used for your core, major classes. This is especially true for your freshman year textbooks, since these will likely cover all the basics of your field. Having this book will be convenient for you because sometimes you will need to refer to it to help you refresh your memory on a certain concept. If you are in a highly specialized field, you might even appreciate having the book after you graduate. Personally, I regret that I did not keep my general biology textbook, as I am a biology major. When I started taking the more advanced biology classes, and even now that I am a graduate student, I definitely would have appreciated being able to refer back to the book that describes the basics of every area of biology.

On the other hand, there are some cases in which you can get rid of your textbooks, whether it be through a buyback program or by donating it (libraries are always appreciative of textbook donations!). For example, you can let go of a textbook for one of your general education classes (you don’t need to keep your college algebra textbook if you do not plan to take any more math classes). If you are confident you won’t need to refer back to the book in the future, you can let it go. These textbooks will just take up space in your bookshelf. For that reason, it would be ideal to have a retailer buy it back from you.

Again, please think before you try to sell your textbooks to a retailer. You don’t want to make the mistake of selling a book you will need in the future.

How to make sure the “buyback” program will work for you

Many students have a plan to sell their book to a retailer through a buyback program, which is great if they no longer need the book. However, this sometimes does not work out because retailers can refuse to buy back your books if they are in bad condition. On the other hand, the buyback program will work well for you if your books are in good condition. The standards for buying back textbooks are pretty similar across different retailers. Let’s discuss those book quality standards to ensure that yours will meet those standards. If you take good care of your books, they should, and you will be able to successfully sell your book and make some money off it.

Infographic by Alyssa Laffitte

Take good care of the cover and spine of the book

Unfortunately, people do judge books by their covers and their spines. The outside of the book is the first place retailers look for damage. For best protection of the cover and spine of your book, I would recommend buying a stretchy, fabric book cover. Yes, you might feel like you are in high school or middle school, but these covers will do a good job of protecting your book from any damage.

If you plan to sell your book to a retailer, do not allow the cover or the spine to be damaged. If they are, the retailer might not buy back your book.

Do not excessively underline or write in the margins

Although taking notes in the margins of textbooks is great for the learning process, it is not great for making sure a retailer will buy back your textbook. (Again, because the next person who uses it will not appreciate a textbook that’s completely written up.) The same goes for underlining. Instead, take notes in a separate notebook or on the computer to keep the book clean. Of course, indicate page numbers in your notes so you can easily follow along in the textbook without actually marking the book.

Most retailers will buy back a book with some underlining and notes in the margins, but it must be only in less than 50% of the book. Otherwise, excessive underlining and notes in the margins will definitely cause a retailer to not buy back your textbook.

Make sure none of the pages have been ripped off or torn

It may seem obvious, but it is worth repeating. Before you ask a retailer to buy back your textbook, make sure the book itself is intact. They will not buy back a book with missing or torn pages. It would be unfair for the next student to receive a book with missing pages. For that reason, protect the pages of your book!

Protect the book from stains

As college students, we often do a lot of studying while we eat. However, it is way too easy for a textbook to get stained when you study and eat at the same time. Water damage, pizza grease stains, and coffee stains will definitely be unattractive to a retailer you want to sell to.

Try your best to not eat and study at the same time, as this will reduce the chances your book will get stained. Also, if you work on a whiteboard, be careful that open whiteboard markers don’t fall on the book and stain the pages (I’m speaking from personal experience!). Sometimes accidents happen and you might spill water on your book, and of course, normal wear and tear is not a big deal; retailers will still be willing to buy back your book. But as much as you can, try to protect your book from stains.

Do not use the access code (but if you must, be aware that the book will be worth less)

It’s understandable if the entire reason you bought the textbook was to get the access code. In that case, definitely use the access code! If you do this, just be aware that the book will be worth significantly less at the retailer without the access code. You will have to let the retailer who buys back your book know the book does not include the access code.

A missing access code will not stop a retailer from buying back your book, they will just buy it back for less money. On the other hand, if you do not need the access code and you would prefer your textbook to be worth more money, then do not use the access code. Having the access code with the book will allow retailers to buy it back for much more money, but again, they will still happily buy back a book without an access code.

Use the latest edition of the textbook (not the teachers’ or international versions)

Unfortunately, older editions, teachers’ editions, and international editions of the textbook might not be worth much money from the buyback program. The demand for these types of textbooks is low, because students want the latest one. If you plan to sell your textbook back to the retailer at the end of the semester, go for the latest edition, as they will give you back more money for the latest edition of the textbook. Indeed, the latest editions are definitely worth more money from buyback programs than older editions.

Image via Isorepublic.com

Shop around for the best offer

If you book meets these criteria and is in good condition, then chances are good that multiple retailers would be willing to buy back your book. In this case, you should shop around to figure out which one will buy back the book for the most money. You can check physical retailers like your campus bookstore or Barnes and Noble, or online retailers like Textsurf. There can be quite a discrepancy in the amount of money these retailers are willing to pay for your book; some retailers might be willing to buy your book from you for lots of money, while others will not pay you much. The main advantage of an online retailer like Textsurf is that they can compare buyback prices across different retailers. This will help ensure you get the absolute best deal when you sell your unwanted textbook. When you buy back your textbook, use price comparison tools and shop around to make sure you get the best offer for your book!

Final thoughts about textbook buyback programs

All in all, textbook buyback programs can be a win-win situation for you, the retailer, and the student who will buy it next. You will make some money, which is always appreciated after spending so much on the textbook originally. The retailer will get to re-sell the book, and the next student will get their used textbook for a low price. However, this beautiful program can only work if you know you will not need your textbook in the future, and if the textbook is in good condition.

I would advise against letting go of textbooks for your major, especially the ones you used your freshman year. You never know if you will need to refer to it when you take your more advanced classes, or even throughout your future career. However, a buyback program will work well for a book you know you won’t need in the future, like a book from an elective or a general education class. These books will just sit on your bookshelf collecting dust, so might as well sell them and make some money!

Also, the buyback program will only work if the textbook is in good condition. Please be aware that if the book is ripped or excessively written in, retailers will understandably not buy it back. Of course, no one expects a used textbook to be in perfect condition, with absolutely no dog-eared pages or highlights. Small signs of normal wear and tear are okay, but it would not be fair for the next student to receive a torn, ripped, and illegible book.

For that reason, if you plan to sell your book to a retailer once you are done with it, take good care of the book. Turn in the textbook in the condition you would like to receive a used textbook. If you treat your textbook with care, the buyback program will reward you by taking it off your hands and giving you some money back for it. After all, textbooks are too expensive to just keep in your bookshelf and not make any money off them. Take advantage of the buyback program and make some money off your unwanted textbooks that are in good condition, of course!

22, ISFJ. Biology student. College lifestyle blogger. Avid reader and writer. Dog lover. Nerd. Boyband enthusiast. Superhero in training. Here to help you become the best you can be!

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