How to Buy College Books for Less and Sell for More

Posted June 25th, 2009 by missrunningstart and filed in Reducing Expenses, Student to Student

Stack of BooksOne of the first things I had to figure out as a beginning freshman was how to save money on buying college textbooks.

The first step is to get the booklist for each class. Sometimes the booklists can be obtained from a campus advisor or online when you search by course description or ID number. Other times it is distributed the first day of class. Make sure you note which edition you need for each book because there maybe small changes between editions or major rewrites. If you have questions about editions, I recommend you ask your professor if an older edition would suffice.

Once you have the booklists for your classes, go to the college bookstore and note the price for each of your required books. Typically, prices of books in the school’s bookstore are more expensive than other options. Often in the bookstore you will find new and used prices. It is good to note both prices for each book.

Other options for buying books are:

  • A student who has previously taken the course(s)
  • A student operated book exchange/bookstore; this could be a physical room or a website
  • Online websites; personally I recommend and but remember to include shipping and handling costs when you are comparing prices

Older books like classic novels tend to be cheaper online than at the school’s bookstore. If a professor asks you to purchase a book that is out of print, meaning no longer being published, the book can most likely be found on some online bookstore or through a previous student. If you can find a student who is one or two years ahead of you in your major, you may be able to buy most of your books from that one student. In some cases, students are generous and will give you the books you need for free.

If you have the chance, buy your books as soon as possible. Math and science books may be more limited online and the sooner you buy them the less stress you will have in finding them later.

If you find that the only way to secure a particular book is through the bookstore, consider buying one in the best condition possible and then use it gently so that you can sell it for at least half its original cost.

When you go to sell your previous years books, try selling them directly to students because this could get you more money than selling the through the bookstore at school or online.

Don’t let buying books stress you out. Just make sure you are getting what you are paying for.

One Response to “How to Buy College Books for Less and Sell for More”

  1. I recently finished my graduate degree, and boy do I know about book buying. My freshman year I walked into the bookstore with my book list, started stacking up all the books in my arms. When it hit me, the huge amount of money, I would be spending on these bundles of paper…I panicked. Seriously, I freaked out and promptly returned every book back to its shelf and went home to call my mother!

    In the meantime, I was able to speak to older students who gave me the best advice, buy as little in the bookstore as possible. One of these students I talked to sold me multiple books that very day for less than a 1/3 of the bookstore price. One told me the most recent edition of a book isn’t always necessary, especially if you are familiar with the differences in editions. Another told me you don’t always have to buy the book, but could share with other students.

    From then on I was fine, every semester I got my booklists early-determined which books/editions I truly needed to have a great class and bought accordingly. I also recommend, but always tried to buy from other students first!