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Used Textbooks: One Great Reason To Sell Yours

Jul 24, 2008
You stand in line at your textbook sell back, you hand over your textbook, apparently the equivalent of solid silver just a few months ago. And then the clerk hands you a couple of twenties and says next. Read here why I stopped going to the textbook sell back on campus and made my own arrangements to sell my textbooks, and how you can get reference books for less.

I wrote this article to convince you that any textbook sell back will benefit you more than keeping those books. And I offer a strategy to build a great reference library for less.

My $100 Wake Up Call: A Business Law Textbook
As an undergrad engineering student, I kept nearly every textbook, sell back wasn't on my schedule. I wanted a reference library, I said. Then, I went back to school for an MBA. I had to take business law, and the book was more than $125. I was stunned.

I found the book at about $100 online and bought it, took my class and seethed. This was my 6th MBA class - I as in an evening program - and I had kept all the books from my previous classes. I was going to build a textbook reference library again, I thought.

Then, I was walking through a thrift store. Not a used bookstore mind you, just a secondhand store. You know, donate, and a church or other charity runs it to help the less fortunate.

And there on the shelf was my book, one edition old - I bought the 8th edition, they had the 7th - for $3.

Yeah, $3. And thrift stores are tax exempt in my area.

I immediately sold every textbook I had used for my MBA classes, and several of my other books that had any value. I consider it one of my best business decisions ;)

Why clean off your shelf?
Textbook sell back shows the situation perfectly. You pay hard earned money for a new or used textbook, take the class, then try to sell it back. The school only has funds to buy back the number of used textbooks they need, frequently leaving you holding yours to keep. You end up with a valuable doorstop, or a nice book end about physics. An expensive book you don't need.

My library was the same in a way. I had valuable textbooks wasting away on my shelves. Or, I could do my own textbook sell back and then buy older versions at a fraction of the price to fill my library. Which is what I do now.

For instance, the $3 seventh edition textbook I mentioned earlier? It's on my shelf as I write this. I also bought a strategic management textbook, same authors, 1 edition back, maybe one or two missing chapters from the one I used in class (I can't remember now if I read those chapters or not) also for a whopping $3. It makes me smile to tell you this :o) and I hope you get the message.

Textbook Sell Back and Your College Frig
Books you buy for school have a limited shelf life, like cottage cheese, Lettuce and sour cream. Their value holds until the next edition comes out. But just like a potato you have to skin, any current edition textbook, almost no matter the condition, has value. Whether it has a missing cover, excessive highlighting, notes written in the margin, or even dog ears (the worst), you can have your own textbook sell back if the new edition has not hit the shelves yet.

High prices on textbooks are for a good cause: trying to bring you the best information for your money and give you a great education. Professors use textbooks because then they don't have to come up with the material to teach themselves, and the books also help meet accreditation requirements to cover all the important stuff in a certain topic.

But it can cost you hundreds of dollars. So get the books you need, and then have your own little textbook sell back every term. Sell some online or to your friends about to take that class.

And if you need a reference book on a subject you have in school, you might want to go check out a secondhand store. You'll be surprised how far $5 will go.
About the Author
Want more techniques?
During two degrees with little money in college, I learned how to avoid buying textbooks whenever possible. Visit the Beat-Tuition Cheap Textbook Hub for dozens of ideas like these for keeping your textbooks cheap.
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