College Textbooks Online Buying Guide

You pick up your schedule and you see that long list of books you’re supposed to buy and you go to the campus bookstore and even though you’re no math major you quickly realize that you’re going to have to shell out anywhere from another two-hundred to four-hundred bucks just for books. And that’s if you’re not going to one of those schools that finds their football teams in the top twenty-five preseason poll. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to be able to find half the books you need at used prices.

The business of college textbooks is big business, indeed. Big business on the buying end. Why is that when you try to sell back a book that cost you $70 you can only get $10 for it? Or else you come to the disheartening realization that many of the books you bought aren’t going to be bought back at any price?

If all you know from using textbooks are the free ones provided you during grades 1-12, then you should immediately prepare yourself for one of the real world’s first and most unpleasant surprises. You will be required to purchase books that you may or may not actually use during classes and these books are going to be very expensive and you are not going to get back more than ten to twenty-five percent what you paid for them and, frankly, I was being hopelessly optimistic when I suggest you might get back twenty-five percent. In most cases you’ll get less than ten percent and in way too many cases you won’t get squat.

Unless, of course, you decide to bypass the college bookstore or the used auxiliary bookstore that hopefully is within walking distance of the campus. There is a better way.

The internet offers many sites where, if you act fast, you can get used books where you might not be able to locate a used copy at the campus bookstore. Or where, at least, you can get new books at a slightly lower price. And, best of all, you can actually sell those books back at up to 25% to 40% of what you paid for it at some sites. If you’re willing to take a gamble, you might even be able to make more back than that, but I’ll explain how that works later.

Another advantage to buying your textbooks online is that you can order 24 hours a day; you don’t have to work your schedule around the bookstore’s schedule. Freshmen especially should be aware that if you buy from the campus bookstore, you should bring your Sony PSP or and iPod with you because you will be waiting in line. How long? Nobody knows; it will depend on how your campus bookstore or local used textbook store operates. But I personally have waited up to forty-five minutes in line to buy textbooks myself.

You can get some good deals on textbooks everywhere from the really big national online brands to lesser known sites dedicated to selling just textbooks. For instance, Barnes & Noble’s online site BN.Com actually features a clickable tab at the top of their web site just for buying and selling textbooks. You can search by title, author, keyword or ISBN number. The ISBN number, by the way, is that 10 digit number usually found around the bar code. Failing to find it there, you can usually also find it on a book’s copyright page. If you still can’t find it, then you’ve probably bought a book so old that you don’t really have a hope in the world of making much of your money back when you try to sell it. Once the semester is over, you can also sell your books back to Barnes & Noble and they will even pay for shipping! is an excellent example of the more college-dedicated kinds of sites available. In addition to buying and selling textbooks, you can also purchase supplies and apparel, but that’s another article. Ecampus allows for the same kind of category searching as BN when buying, but when selling textbooks back be prepared to enter the ISBN numbers only. Like BN, Ecampus will pay for shipping when selling books back. Most sites, in fact, offer some kind of deal to pay for all or some of the shipping when you sell back books. If they don’t, I suggest you shop around. Unless you’re getting a really great deal, there’s no reason to pay shipping costs at all.

Both BN and Ecampus offer the bonus of being able to sell textbooks back directly to the site. There are, however, opportunities to make a bigger profit, but like all enterprises offering that chance, it’s a bit of gamble. Many places on the internet are set up to post your books for sale to other buyers. The upside is that you stand to make as much as twice as what you’d make from selling direct, but the downside is that you have to wait for someone to come along and buy it. Which may or may not happen. If you are the type who prefers to take the smaller profit and run, then you’d be better off selling directly to one of the sites who offer that service. If you enjoy going to casinos and playing the lottery, then by all means take the posting service route.

Some of these kinds of buyback sites can get pretty complex. For instance, allows you to choose from five different examples the exterior and interior conditions of your used books. After deciding on whether you are offering a used book that should be considered anything from like new to fair, you can also set your own price. If you decide to go this way, I cannot suggest too strongly that you give an honest representation of the condition of your book and that you set a fair price for yourself. If you really believe you have a book that is almost like new and you want to get as much money back for it as you can, then go ahead and set your price at the top of the list. Demand what your careful handling of your textbook deserves. Don’t undersell. Of course, along the same line, don’t set a ridiculously high price for a book with torn pages and pink highlighter throughout.

Most of these sites offer same day shipping, but actual delivery times vary greatly. While offers standard shipping which can take up to 20 days and expedited shipping which can take up to 10 days, Barnes & Noble promises three day delivery and offers free delivery on orders over $25.00 offers a variety of shipping options with delivery times ranging from one business day to fourteen business days. Needless to say, if you do go the online route, make sure you give yourself plenty of time for the books to arrive.

While writing this article, I decided to do a little comparison shopping. Since pretty much everyone is going to at one time or another need to buy an anthology of American literature in their college career, I chose the Norton Anthology of American Literature, Shorter Edition. (Don’t let that shorter edition stuff fool you, any anthology of literature is going to be the same as lugging around a nicely sized brick.) Here is a brief, by no means comprehensive idea of what you might expect to pay for this book in its new and used status, as well as what you can expect to get when attempting to sell it back. New: 66.75 Used: 44.24 Buyback: 19.95
Ecampus: New: 61.41 Used: 45.74 Buyback: 24.60
Bookbyte: New: 64.95 Used: 51.95 Buyback: 22.80
Phatcampus: New: 61.16 Used: 53.30 Buyback: 19.00 New: 68.21 Used: 50.81
Textbookx: New: 69.80 Used: 51.67
Webuytextbooks: Buyback: 22.77

Of course, you can always take the route advised by my favorite college professor. Buy the books, find out which chapters or stories you’re going to be studying, make photocopies of them and then return the books for a refund. You’ll still be paying out some money, but it’s probably going to be far less than the cost of a new book.

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