When to Buy and Sell Textbooks

3 Aug

In honor of back-to-school August!

It’s always a rip-off, but when can you minimize the pain? Textbooks cost around $100 per book and with 12 credits, you are probably looking at purchasing at least 4 and probably more like 6, because that one English or Anatomy teacher always feels like 3 required books are probably better. . .  That adds up to about $300-$700 PER semester.  Which by the time you get a degree looks more like $1,800 to $5,600 (if you’re REALLY unlucky, or changed your major), which is WAAAAAY too much when you also have to pay tuition, school fees, rent, transportation, food, and health-care.  Save money where you can–your books!  I may not have been writing in this blog often at all, but I have been doing research for you!  You’re welcome.

The Quad 2

But before we get to the data, let me mention (what I consider) the obvious.  Do NOT buy your textbooks from your campus bookstore.  Those are probably the most expensive prices of all.  Sure it’s easy, sure the bookstore is right there, but it’s totally not worth ti.  And do NOT sell your books back anywhere on campus.  Not the bookstore and not the easily accessible sidewalk stand on the way back to your dorm.  My first time around, I could not be bothered to mess about with shipping.  Or research.  And how much money I must have lost!  Let’s not think about it.  It’s really, really, REALLY worth it to bother around with shipping textbooks back and fourth.

Go to any textbook comparison website and find your books at the lowest price to purchase and highest sell-back.  I’ve chosen random sites that compare several book companies for the purpose of showing you it doesn’t really matter which company or site, but they’re all cheaper than campus.  Also, know that no one company always has the best prices, as you will soon see–they fluctuate dramatically ALL the time.

Walking about-July 2012 032

I picked 3 random textbooks (in my Speech & Hearing Sciences major) that I had to buy, then sell back in 2014.  I tracked the purchase price for renting the book and the top two lowest buying price for one book.  On that note, it’s a personal preference whether you want to buy new or used books, rent, or just borrow from the library.  It really depends on the course (make sure you have a chem book accessible ALL the time!!!) and your study style.  If you’re not going to read the books, just go to the library or borrow them from a friend.  But DO read your books–it does help, I swear!  Even if you’re not directly tested on the reading material (you rarely will be), and even if practice problems aren’t assigned to turn in.  It will help you build a foundation for learning, give practice problems, and have useful visuals.  Read.  Your.  Textbooks.  My 4.0 GPA (yup, I’m bragging–and will continue to do so for the rest of my LIFE) I earned the 2nd time around?  Largely due to reading every textbook.  Sometimes professors don’t explain things clearly or at all, and my textbooks gave me a leg up.  Seriously, find the time.

Should you keep the books?

I kept my undergrad textbooks that were in my major and minor.  And I have yet to look at ANY of them.  But I have moved heavy Animal Science, Nutrition, Biology, and Chemistry textbooks from apartment to apartment, state to state, and now they sit in my storage unit–in a different state.  I never used them at all, and they just collect dust losing their value as new editions come out (which is very frequently so publishers can make even MORE money on students).  I wish I would have rented them and saved myself money, muscle-soreness, and space.  Maybe you might want really good textbooks to refer to in your career–but be practical about it.  You probably won’t.  Remember how the info is updated ALL the time.  Go to the Internet, take CE credits, or subscribe to a journal instead.

For the other two books, I tracked the sell-back prices (highest and 2nd highest) over a year.  These trends might vary depending on major and stuff, but I imagine the principles of supply and demand are similar for all subjects.  So next up:  BUYING textbooks, and when the best time to do it is during the year.

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