I’ll never forget the first time I truly felt gouged from an outrageously overpriced textbook purchase in college. I was a freshman standing in line at the campus bookstore to buy a giant, hardback economics book.
I still recall the cashier ringing up the grand total — a staggering $120+ tax — for one book. This was back in the late ‘90s when the Internet was dominated by AOL and minimum wage was about $5 an hour.
Not only was it expensive, there was very little hope of making any of that back after the quarter was over.
There were only three (non-internet) options to sell used textbooks. There were pros and cons to each, but mostly I remember not being able to get as much for the book because there was usually a newer version that just came out.
These were ways most students tried to sell their books:
1. Sell it back to the campus bookstore but prepare for rejection if they had a new edition of that book.
2. Sell it back to the off-campus, used bookstore. This was totally hit or miss, depending on which book it was, and if that particular version was still relevant.
3. Sell it to another student who’s going to take that class, but that requires you to put in some effort to actually find these students before the semester starts.
These three options are still relevant today, but with buyback programs like Amazon and other used textbook sites, there are so many more web-based options.
I Wish I Had Amazon When I Was a Student
The College Board estimates that students are spending roughly $1,200 a year on books and supplies. Why wouldn’t you try to make some of that back, even if it’s in the form of a gift card?
While Amazon’s trade-in pays you only in Amazon gift cards and not cash, if you’re a poor college student, an Amazon gift card could be just as good as cash. Or you can use the credit you earn towards future book purchases for the upcoming semester.
Here’s what to know about Amazon’s buyback program and other sites that allow you to sell your used textbooks for cash.
How to Use Amazon Trade-In
Books are just a part of their buyback program. You can also trade in your unwanted electronics such as phones, computers, games, and e-readers.
These are more ways to get rid of items you no longer use or want and make something extra to put towards your gift card.
Amazon’s trade-in process is straightforward and fast. Here are the five steps that are involved when you trade in your textbooks.
Step 1: Type in the Title of the Book
First, go to Amazon’s Trade-In Store and type in the title of the book you want to trade in.
If you don’t see the name of the book auto-populate from the search, it may not be eligible. If you can’t trade it in, it will say “Currently unavailable to trade in.”
For items that are eligible, you’ll see a button that says “Trade in this item.”
Step 2: What’s the Condition of the Book?
After you select the book, it asks you for the condition of the book. Be truthful about this part, otherwise Amazon may reject the trade-in for your book.
You’ll need to answer some questions about how wrinkled the pages are and whether you’ve made highlights or notes in the book.
Tip: As a heads up for future trade-ins, avoid marking up your book and keep it in good condition.
After you answer a few questions about the condition, Amazon shows you what the trade-in value is.
Step 3: Find the ISBN, or Barcode
Next, you’ll need to match up the ISBN number or barcode located in the back of the book. If you so desire, you can check BookScouter (which is a book price comparison site) if you want to verify that you’re receiving a competitive price for your book.
Step 4: Choose Which Address for the Prepaid Shipping Label to Be Mailed
Amazon then asks you for which address you want the prepaid shipping label to be mailed to. This page takes you to all the addresses you’ve used in your Amazon account.
Step 5: Confirm and You’re Done
The last step is to click the button: “Confirm Trade-In.”
Trade-ins that are not received by Amazon within 30 days of submission are automatically canceled. Once Amazon receives your book, you’ll receive a credit for your total trade-in value.
Other Options to Make Cash for Your Used Textbooks
If you need cash instead of an Amazon gift card, or want to know what other options you have for your used textbooks, there are a number of companies that cater to students who want to sell their used stuff.
Chegg gives you a quote on your used textbooks by using the same ISBN barcode that’s located in the back of the book and just like Amazon, gives you a free UPS shipping label for you to drop off.
The upside to Chegg is that they may pay more than your campus bookstore for your unwanted textbooks, especially if it’s a popular, hardback books.
After Chegg receives your books, you will get paid within 10-15 business days, which can be a long time if you’re strapped for some quick cash.
You can also use Chegg to rent books or buy them. According to their site, you may be able to save up to 90 percent if you decide to rent
If you’re holding on to low or no-value books, you can also donate them to Chegg.
If you want to get paid faster, try BooksRun where you can get paid within four days after your books are received.
The search starts with your ISBN barcode. They also offer free prepaid shipping labels
Textbooks.com is an online-only site similar to Chegg and BooksRun. It offers 10 million used textbooks and eTextbooks.
Textbooks.com also guarantees a 50 percent return on the books you buy from them, as long as you decide to return it to them when the semester is over.
You can visit their buyback page to receive a quote on your book. Once you receive your quote, you can “lock it in” for 30 days.
This means you have a month to ship in your books. When you ship, you get a free UPS label you can print and use to ship out your books.
4. Comparison Shop Before You Sell
It’s always a good idea to see what the going price is, and to shop around to see what other sites and book vendors would potentially offer you.
There’s a comparison site called Bonavendi that allows you to put in a book’s ISBN code and then compare prices from their list of vendors. Bonavendi’s vendors agree to pay a fixed price for your items.
You can also do this for your unwanted CDs, DVDs, Blu Rays, and online video games.
There’s also another site called BookScouter, that allows you to find the best buyback vendors. From a single search, BookScouter lets you compare offers from over 35 buyback vendors.
Keep Your Books in Good Condition
If you did a not-so-great job of keeping your books in good condition last semester, be sure to be vigilant about that in the upcoming semester.
If you know what classes you plan on taking in the next semester and which books are required, start looking early. The earlier you look, the cheaper the deal you may find.
4 General Rules of Thumb for Book Condition
Amazon looks at the following to determine whether the textbook is in good condition or not.
1. The binding
Is it in tact, new, and sharp? Or is it tattered, torn, and coming apart from the rest of the book
2. The pages
Generally speaking, are they wrinkled, folded over, or water-stained? Or are they crisp and without a lot of wear and tear
3. Water damage
Water is a book’s mortal enemy. If the book as been exposed to water or extreme moisture, the pages will be bumpy and Amazon will most likely not accept the return.
4. Did your book also double as your notebook?
If you went overboard and personalized the book with your name, doodles, notes, and highlights, Amazon will probably not accept it as a trade-in. In the future, try using sticky notes if you want to mark a page.
Take advantage of Amazon’s huge platform to sell your used textbooks and use the credits to purchase books you need in the future.
If you’d rather receive cash for your books, consider any of the textbook buyback companies, which offer similar features and benefits.
What are some of the best ways you’ve sold your old textbooks?