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Textbook Buy Back: One Cool Way to Make It Better

Jul 24, 2008
You know what textbook buy back is - wait in line, offer the university demigod your used textbook and hope they give you something for it. But have you ever heard of guaranteed textbook buy back? With a guarantee, you avoid keeping a book you don't need, and you don't have to stand in line wondering if your bookstore will have filled their quota for your book. Especially if the person in front of you has the same one.

Standard Textbook Buy Back Jitters
Don't you hate that feeling, as you stand in line to sell your books? The waiting. The watching to see if they buy your book from every person in the line. Will they still need my book? When you arrive at the register, and they only need 2 of the 7 books you have.

The Guarantee
You can avoid this now by buying through stores that guarantee your textbook buy back. Some campus stores and some online stores will guarantee to buy back certain books, and they will even tell you how much they will pay you. You still have some limitations, as you might expect. Instead of waiting in the line to find out that you can't sell it back, you find out when you buy it that you can't.

You also don't have to wonder how much you'll get at buy back. The company will tell you right away how much value you will lose - but you will still have the guaranteed textbook buy back price, and you will reduce the cost of your textbooks with a guarantee.

End of Semester Time Saver
At the end of the semester, you will just take your books to a drop off point and pick up your cash - but you may have a line still. The difference is that you will also have a guaranteed return. With online stores, you will usually get a prepaid postage sticker you have to keep until the end of the term, and then you'll mail them back for a check.

The companies that provide this service will tell you how much they will pay. Many university bookstores also offer this service. The books included in the program will typically have a sticker or an icon, if online, to show you that they have a guaranteed textbook buy back amount.

Be careful to protect that sticker! It serves as your guarantee. Campus bookstores usually require that their sticker still be on the book. Just be aware.

Not Every Textbook is Included
Whether through a campus store or online, not all textbooks will have the guarantee. Even if some of yours don't, you can still do it the old way during buy back week. And of course you can also sell it online.

Does This Work for Used Textbooks?
Used textbooks can also be in guarantee programs as well. It just depends on the department and the professors at your school. If they have committed to using the book for a few years, then the store will offer a guarantee on that book. Online stores use a different method, but the result is the same, if they see significant commitment to the book, they can offer a guarantee for a used book, too.

The Numbers
The breakdown I give here won't be perfect in all cases, but you will get an idea of how these programs work. When a college or an online bookstore offers a guaranteed textbook buy back on a new book, they will often promise you 50 percent of the book price you paid at the beginning of the class. Then, they will add half of that when they resell it used, a total of about 75 percent of your price.

Used textbooks will work similarly but with slightly different numbers. Your book will drop half its value, but you do get half the amount back. If you have access to a guaranteed textbook buy back, you get a pretty good deal. You know which textbooks you can sell for something, you probably know how much, and you save time. Cool. Cheap textbooks and less work.

Differences between Online and On Campus
Textbook buy back will be slightly different online versus on campus. You will have to ship for an online bookstore, but not on campus. And you will have to wait for the online bookstore to acknowledge your books. On the other hand, an online store may have a wider variety of books with a guarantee. And you may be able to return the books earlier than at the bookstore.

Your on campus bookstore will be close by, no waiting for a check. They will give you cash, and hopefully the line will be short.

Both will look at your books before they pay. Severe damage invalidates the guarantee. Don't drop it in a rainstorm, or highlight in black. Some wear is normal, some writing, some highlighting. And you have to have all the pieces: all the pages, and any disks or student workbooks if included when you bought the book.

You can't really expect to get all your textbooks for nothing. I managed to do it in several classes, and even made money on one book. But over a full term of classes or a year, you have to expect to spend something. In those cases, the guaranteed textbook buy back fills the bill, and helps reduce your expenses.

Maybe you'll even have money for a First Run movie ticket - with popcorn!
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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