BooksRun on How Students Can Make Money with Used Textbooks

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Clever Finances
a student selling used textbooks to make money

In the last decades, the price of textbooks has increased at a drastic rate, adding to students’ financial burden. Moreover, new editions of textbooks are issued every year, making the old ones useless. This policy leaves students with no other choice but to purchase these over-priced new editions.

There are, however, several ways that allow students to cope with the increasing prices. First, the online platforms and bookstores that enable students to rent books for a certain period made college textbooks more accessible. Second, students often tend to buy used textbooks or e-books, which are way cheaper than brand-new hardcopies from a local college bookstore. Here we will explore how these textbook platforms work and how to make money selling used books online as well as buying college books online.

Why Are Textbooks So Expensive?

The significant increase in the price of textbooks occurred in the mid-1970s due to the publishing houses’ policies for maximizing the profit. Their actions were twofold: increasing the prices of college books and regularly releasing new editions. Since there were only a few publishers (and now even less), the steep increase in the prices did not cause any counteractions in the monopolized textbook market.

At the same time, other tactics were used to ensure that college professors assign new textbooks for their courses. Academic publishers advertise their books to professors by sending them free samples of relevant textbooks. Most often than not, these textbooks appeared in the next year’s curricula. As soon as a steady market for a specific book was secured, the prices increased. For fifty years, students have been the captives of this system.

What Can We Do with the Textbook Pricing Racket?

old textbooks for sale
Designed by natalliaboroda / Freepik

To battle the outrageous prices of textbooks, college students started buying second-hand books or renting them for a semester or an academic year. They buy used student books, and there are also plenty of students students selling books online. Although time-consuming, students usually manage to track down the needed textbooks in rental shops, on online selling platforms, or sometimes as a digital version. It saves a few dollars, but any sum is a fortune when you have, as an average student, a $32.731 student debt.

However, the regular release of new editions restrains the used textbook market and prevents students from getting books at lower prices. Rarely a new edition would contain updated information or reflect recent scientific developments — it is a purely manipulative marketing strategy.

Can anyone really do something about textbook pricing, or at least make them more accessible for students? Some professors act responsibly by supplying their students with photocopied excerpts from textbooks (the copyright law allows fair usage for education purposes) or assigning open-access reading materials. Although studying with a stack of photocopied papers seems uncomfortable, this strategy saves students a lot of money.

Are Used Textbooks Worth Anything?

In a nutshell — yes, even despite new editions storming the market. Many people are still willing to buy a used college book, and here are the reasons why:

  • to save money — a used book can be half the price of a new one;
  • to protect the environment — using second-hand books is sustainable;
  • to own a rare book — since books have limited print runs, a limited edition can be an investment or an item for one’s collection.

How to make money from old books? The market price of any book depends mostly on demand, and for textbooks, it is seasonal (we will cover it later). If you are not sure whether the book you are willing to sell is still in demand, you can check it on BooksRun. If you think that the offered price is quite low or if the book is not even listed for buyback options, probably it is not the right moment to sell that textbook.

Another parameter that determines the value of a given textbook is its condition, so always check a buyback condition guide before selling your books. The better condition — the higher the price one can set. However, textbooks with marks and underlining can still be sold, though their condition should be thoroughly described and noted as “acceptable”.

If you have a stockpile of textbooks from your previous terms, you should not hesitate and sell them. Make money from textbooks — there is a chance that some of the textbooks are still of some value. Most importantly, a vibrant market of used textbooks allows college students to acquire their study materials cheaper and fight back the skyrocketing prices for newly published books.

Selling Your Used Textbooks

books for sale
Designed by pakhnyushchyy / Freepik

If you want to sell university books and all used textbooks, you should list a book for sale by entering its ISBN. Afterward, you need to describe the book in detail: the edition, any damages, any marginal notes. Buyers will understand what you offer, and there will be lower chances of a dispute. To determine the appropriate pricing, one should scan through other listings of the same book to compare the prices and the number of copies sold.

Buyback quotes for textbooks fluctuate throughout seasons, months, and weeks. The tips below are there to help you find the best time to sell books and beware of the worst. 

Rule of Thumb: Timing Matters

Textbooks’ sales depend a lot on the right timing! The highest demand for books is usually right before the start of the academic year. Summer is the time when you can make the most profit, especially if you sell cheap used textbooks in July and August. Students get acquainted with their curricula and will be looking for a cheap copy of the required study materials. Selling a book at that moment would be a win-win situation for both the buyer and the seller. Another peak for sales is in January, right before the second term begins.

If you decide to sell your textbooks around finals, you should not expect to earn much. Everybody is eager to get rid of their used textbooks for college students, and the market is overflooded, dropping the prices down. It is advantageous to hold the books throughout the first summer months and sell them when the demand is high again. The beginning and the middle of a semester are not the best times for selling university books either. Most students have already bought their books; therefore, buyback companies are not much interested in acquiring new textbooks.

Selling Loose Leaf Editions

Many textbooks are sold in a loose leaf, or “binder-ready” format (sometimes also called a la Carte since they may be printed on demand by the publisher). A loose-leaf textbook does not have a traditional binding, unlike hardcover or paperback versions. A book in this format is more difficult to sell since it is just a pile of papers and not a neat book under a colorful cover. However, many students prefer these editions over hard copies — they are cheaper and more convenient to use, which means they can get textbooks for less. Therefore, there is still a chance to sell loose-leaf textbooks (if they are in good condition, and pages are not misplaced) to buyback companies.

When selling a loose-leaf book, first check the ISBN. Make sure you don’t quote a hardcover edition instead of a loose-leaf one. Also, check if the ISBN stands for the book only or the book together with supplementary materials or the access code — these might influence the buyback price. Note that some a la Carte books are not eligible for resale as they do not have an ISBN.

Make sure that all the pages are present in a loose-leaf book, including the original cover. It comes without saying that the pages should be in the correct order. If the book arrives with pages scattered around the box, it will not be accepted for the buyback. We recommend safely wrapping the book to secure it from damage and prevent pages from mixing. If you choose to send the textbook in a binder, please be reminded that the binders are not returned.

These guidelines should help you to understand the textbook market better, why it is crucial (and profitable) to sell university books online, how to buy used university books, and how the value of a book is determined. After the decision of listing a textbook for sale is made, one goes through long weeks of waiting, of adjusting the price, of negotiating with buyers. To avoid the hassle, you can use online buyback platforms for selling books.

Why Sell and Buy Textbooks with BooksRun?

Booksrun is an online platform that gives college students a chance to purchase or rent cheap textbooks and to earn extra money by selling used books for fair buyback prices. Moreover, the company takes care of finding customers — you just receive money on your account the moment the book is listed for sale. For buying and renting study materials, Booksrun offers the best prices, speedy delivery, and friendly customer service.

Check our app, programs, and instruments that guarantee our customers user-friendly experience at every stage of the used book selling process!

BooksRun Barcode Scanner Apps for Android and iOS

If you are tired of manually typing the ISBNs or want to quickly estimate the buyback price of a textbook — download our Barcode Scanner App for free, available for iOS and Android. There are no other requirements except for having a smartphone with a camera and a working connection to the internet.

With this app, you can create your buyback orders on BooksRun from anywhere you want. Afterward, you just need to print a free shipping label and send the listed textbooks at the nearest post office. You will get paid within two business days after order processing!

BooksRun Loyalty Program

In the times of the environmental crisis, it is our duty to be conscious and sustainable. At BooksRun, we want to offer our customers an instrument to contribute to minimizing the deforestation and carbon footprint with our Loyalty program. Below you will find information on how to earn points and what you will get if you sign up for our Let’s Go Green Together Initiative.

For every $ you spend or earn by using BooksRun services, you receive 2 points on your BooksRun Loyalty account. We would like to mention that this program has been developed only for printed books, there will be no points awarded for eBooks. You can use your reward points for any of the eco-friendly goods available in the Rewards Section, from a reusable sandwich wrap to a portable solar power bank. Alternatively, you can use the earned points for donating One Tree Planted to make our planet a greener place!

booksrun loyalty program helps you plant trees
Designed by Freepik

We would like to mention other details about our BooksRun Loyalty Program.

  1. You can start participating in this program from the age of 18. You can join as an individual, but industry professionals such as book marketplaces, bulk buyers, and bulk sellers, as well as anyone affiliated with a company or school in the industry, cannot join the BooksRun Loyalty program.
  2. Start earning your points as soon as you sign up for the Loyalty Program. In case you earned your points through a buyback order, the points are in the “Points Available Soon” section. They will be available for redemption once your order has been purchased. Once this happens, the points are available for redemption in “My Points”. Points earned for buying or renting textbooks will appear in your account within an hour.
  3. There is a limit of 1,000 points you can earn per month.
  4. Rewards points are valid for redemption within six months from the payment date.
  5. You can check the number of available points once you log into the BooksRun Loyalty Program account as a registered user.

If you have questions about our program, please check our FAQ questions here, or you can always send us an email to Join our Loyalty Program to support a sustainable market and help the environment!

Now you know how crucial it is to sell used textbooks — it is, so far, the most prominent way to fight back the aggressive pricing and other policies of major textbook publishers. Not to say that one can make some money on buybacks. Using online platforms like BooksRun for buying, renting, and selling college books is much easier and more profitable.

With Booksrun, you can make money, support One Tree Planted initiative, and contribute to the sustainable educational environment!

Iliana K