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16 Money-Saving Tips for Buying and Selling Textbooks

It's that time of year again that all college students dread…textbook season. It seems like every year textbook prices go up, and the buyback prices drop. By taking a few small steps and shopping around, you can save hundreds of dollars a semester on textbooks. The Affordabook staff has put together a list of 23 methods of how to save some money on textbooks, and how to get the most back from your books after the semester.

1. Buy Used
This is the most obvious and best way to knock 20-40 % off the retail price of textbooks. Most university bookstores will carry used copies of the book, but they are usually the first to go. Unless you plan on shopping online get to the bookstores early to make sure you can get them. Most bookstores will only buy back textbooks that are in fairly good condition, so you don’t have to worry about all of the pages being drawn on. Buying in person also gives you the ability to flip through the pages to make sure it’s in good condition as well. Just type in the title, author, or ISBN on the top of this page to begin.

2. Buy International
A lot of major textbooks have an identical international edition that can be found on the web. Although they were printed for US students to use, they work just as well, and are significantly cheaper. They may have a different cover or look a little different, but the content is the same. Local bookstores (and most American) will not buy the books back at the end of the semester, but you can easily sell it online.

3. Use!
This one should have been obvious, but we figured we would include it anyway. Affordabook searches 17 of the most reputable bookstores on the web (including Amazon, Half, Abebooks and ebay) and shows you the prices for any shop that carries the book. It saves you tons of time on searching every site to see which has the lowest price, and Affordabook also provides you with some coupon codes to give you additional savings. If you are going to buy online we highly recommend you use Affordabook. We also have a rapidly growing database of several hundred schools worth of textbook information. All you need to know is the subject name and course #, and we can show you what books you need.

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4. Use Coupons
There are always tons of great coupons floating around the internet (especially during textbook season) Some will give you free shipping, or anywhere from 5-10 % off - here are a few from our partners

5. Is it Mandatory?
Check with your professor to see if all of the textbooks for the class are mandatory, or if they are only used as supplemental material. Everyone has had that one class where the textbook just sits in your dorm room and gains dust for four months. A lot of teachers will be upfront about this. You can also check sites like and RateAProfessor to see what past students have said about the class. If the teacher tells you that the textbook will be rarely used, you could always…

6. Borrow
If the textbook is listed as optional, and would only really be needed on several occasions you could always try and borrow a textbook from a friend. If you have no friends (like myself) you can always go to your TA or professor’s office hours, and they should have a textbook on hand that you can read.

7. Use an Older Edition
You will definitely want to check with your teacher before doing this, but sometimes you can get by using an older edition of the textbook. The page #’s may be a little different, as well as some of the charts and graphs, but most of the bulk content should still be the same. Of course current events or new sciences will not work as well with an older edition.

8. Check the Library
Most university libraries have at least one copy of each textbook (for the larger classes) on file that cannot be taken out, but can be used in the library. If you need any novels for your class there is a great chance that the library will have several copies in that you can take out. Make sure you get to the library early in the semester, as you aren’t the only one who visits Affordabook!

9. Share
You learned the concept in preschool, now you can finally do it. If you have several friends in the same classes as you, you can simply split the cost of one textbook for each course and just share it. Work out a regular schedule for giving each other the book, or just study together. This can really save you a lot of money.

10. Check Locally
Check Craigslist, Facebook and Freecycle (among other community bulletins) to see if you can directly buy the book from a student who had the class last semester. You can even haggle with them to lower the price, or offer to trade other books/items for the said textbook.

11. Check for Softcover
This will work best with novels, but sometimes you can find soft covered editions of your textbooks, which are usually 15-25% cheaper.

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Selling Back Books

Once you are done with your textbooks for the semester, what should you do with them? Most people just sell them back to their local bookstore, but they could be costing themselves lots of money. Here are some tips on how to get the most money for your old books.

12. Ebay
This is probably the best method for selling your books back. Although it requires you to list the book, wait for a buyer and then ship it out, it will give you the most bang for your buck. Once every month or two Ebay will offer 10 cent listing promotions. If these days happen to fall near textbook season, you could make out like a bandit.

13. Other Online Retailers
Say your book doesn’t sell the first time on Ebay, and you don’t want to set up a store. You have plenty of other options. You can list your item on sites like Amazon,, or and wait for your book to be in demand. Although you might not sell it immediately, you have a better chance of getting the price you want by listing it this way.

14. Trade it
This bigger your school is, the easier this method will be. As long as your book isn’t an older edition of the textbook, odds are students will need it next semester. They might have a textbook that you need (or maybe a CD player or some DVDs). You can make a quick trade without paying any sort of transaction fee like the first two methods listed here. Try sites like Facebook’s classifieds, or craigslist. There are also probably some message boards for your university, so google it if all else fails.

15. School Bookstore
If you are looking for the quickest way to get money for your books, just bring it back to where you bought it. Most university bookstores will buy back your book, as long as it’s in good condition and they will be using it in the future. Make sure you get there early though, as they only buy back a certain number of books. If your school is no longer buying back your book, try the methods above.

16. Promotions
At the beginning and end of every semester, my school (Virginia Tech) offers different promotions for selling your books back. One of the bookstores gives you a free meal voucher to Taco Bell (or some other restaurant) as long as you sell back 25 dollars worth of books. You can just sell 1-2 books at a time and get 3-4 meals from Taco Bell for free! Of course you will also need to spend some of that textbook money on Pepto Bismol, but that’s neither here nor there. One of my bookstores also offers a loyalty card. For every X amount of dollars worth of books you buy or sell, you get 5 dollars added to your card, which can be used for anything in the bookstore. Although it doesn’t justify the absurd prices they charge for books, it’s better than nothing.

Although not all of these tips may apply to you, I am certain that you will benefit from at least 4-5 of them. Good luck finding the cheapest textbooks this semester (hopefully you use Affordabook!) and if you have any other money saving tips please let me know. You can reach me at Vinnie [AT]

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