Save Money on Your College Course Books

Textbook Shop and Sell Like a Pro

Textbooks are one of the most costly commodities on a college campus. New, a full course load of brand new books may run you up to $1,000! Of course, the more technical your field; the more costly your books. Textbook money is not financed in your student loans; you pay it out of pocket or add it to your credit card debt. Ironically textbooks are a must-have. The growing number of sources for low-cost, even free, textbooks proves that necessity is the mother of all invention. And when you’re done with them, why not turn them around yourself?

Understand Supply and Demand

College courses are laid out on a fairly standard semester or quarter system. Textbooks are most in demand at the beginning of the term. If you’ve waited until the last minute to shop for your textbooks, you’ve made a costly choice. Supplies are low and prices are up, whether you buy new or used. Even college students that hawk their books for pocket change will sell for a price at this point.

Shop for textbooks between terms. Prices and demand for textbooks drop near the end of a term. In order to buy early you will need your course syllabus in advance. Even if it is not yet posted, most professors will oblige you with the information related to their main textbook resources.

Seek Free Resources First

Before you spend any money at all ask your professor if copies of any course materials will be reserved through the library. This option takes pre-planning and a commitment to library time. In some cases professors may ask the campus library to reserve copies of certain course textbooks. Students may schedule time to check out the sources on a limited basis. Of course economic forces prevail in this realm as well. Around exam or paper time, you will have to compete fiercely with other classmates for library sources.

Buy Locally: Campus Textbook Exchanges

Textbook gouging is as hot a topic as current politics on most campuses. In response to student distress campuses far and wide have invented textbook exchange networks. Some are at the grassroots level, while other more formal exchanges are managed through well-designed campus websites.

A textbook exchange gives you varying levels of access to other students’ used textbooks. Typically you can buy textbooks this way for fractions what you’d pay in the bookstore, even for the used version. You can always ask around your department or post a flyer that gets the attention of other students perhaps with textbooks to sell.

Shop Online Commercial Sites

Saving money is part of the college student culture. Thanks to a burgeoning e-commerce society we’ve become a nation of discount, online shoppers. For every high-priced product there is an affordable knock-off somewhere, usually just a few clicks away. Textbooks are no exception:

A disadvantage to online shopping is the delivery time. Make sure you know your books are on the way if you need them in short order. Most orders come with a package tracking capability. If you experience problems I encourage you to report them. This helps shoppers that come behind you steer clear of dishonest sellers.

Last Resort: College Bookstore

Your college bookstore provides a very specialized service, and once upon a time students had few other options for textbooks. Not so anymore. Your last resort for textbooks should be the campus bookstore. Yes, they sell used, and if you shop online at all you’ll quickly conclude that even the used prices are inflated. Most are widely considered to be well above cost. If you must, for some odd reason, shop at the bookstore, get in there early and buy used.

Turn Your Used Textbooks Into Cash

Once you’ve put out the cash on a few terms worth of textbooks you’ll quickly understand why some students go to the trouble to hawk their used books to other students. A rule of thumb: keep your books in good condition and refrain from marking in them. If you can resell them fairly and in as “good as new” condition you may earn top dollar in the textbook resale market.

Resale to fellow students will earn you more money than reselling to the bookstore. Check out their “used” prices. That is nowhere near what you will have been compensated for the buy-back. Market economics apply: sell when demand is high—at the very beginning of the term. Work alone and be fair.