College Textbooks: Don’t Get Taken For a Ride

by David Bakke

When I was in college, the routine was simple at the start and end of every college semester. At the beginning of the semester, I’d sign up for my classes, gather all of the syllabi (not sure if that’s a word or not) and trudge off to the on campus bookstore, dreading the massive hit that my wallet was about to take.

I’d go inside, pick out all the books I needed, and, like a man facing impending doom, slowly make my way to the cashier, just waiting for the damage. It more often than not hurt, and hurt a lot.

Then, at the end of the semester, it would basically be the reverse process. Classes were over, the textbooks were now useless to me, so I’d go back to the same bookstore, waiting to get ripped off once again. That prized biology book that I paid almost $100 for not three short months ago now only fetched me $15 (or some other ridiculous amount). My visions of walking out of that place with ANYTHING close to what I spent at the beginning of the semester are dashed suddenly. It was almost criminal.

There may still be some of you out there still participating in this farce. Well, I have news for you. Great news. The rip-off is over. The conspiracy can be thwarted.

Here are a few simple steps that you can take at the beginning and end of each semester that should allow you to save more on the front end and get more back on the back end.

The only presumption that I make is that you do not have some undying need for “new” textbooks. I don’t see the point in this, but some of you may. If you do, your savings on the front end may be affected.

Anyways, the first thing you should do is to get your textbook list ready as soon as possible. I was quite involved in this process with my wife who just recently finished college, and as I remember, some of the textbook lists are available before you even sign up for the class. Regardless, get this list as soon as possible, as you’ll need to allow for a little extra time for shipping.

Next, go to one of the millions of websites out there that deal in used textbooks. I personally prefer Amazon, as I feel you can get a larger selection. It is an auction type site so you can probably find multiple versions of your book available (anything from almost brand new to falling apart) depending on what your needs are.
Comparison shop with your local bookstore if you want, but trust me, your savings will be huge. Now, the higher powers that be have already figured this out and sometimes you may find that “new” is the only way to go. They switch “versions” of certain textbooks on a ridiculous schedule, just to force you to buy new. In this case, I doubt there’s anything you can do. But, you should be able to save a great deal over the on-campus store.

Then, at the end of the semester, you kind of do the opposite. Definitely don’t go to the bookstore on campus. No sir. Here, you also have a few options. If you just want to dump them all and be finished with it, again, go to one of the millions of sites out there dedicated to this. Two I have had direct experience with are Book Byte and Blue Rectangle. The process couldn’t be any simpler. Go to their site, type in your ISBNs, see if they accept them all or not. For the ones that they do, if you agree to their price, they give you a pre-printed shipping label, and all you need to do is find a box to put them in. Put the label on there and give it to your postman. That’s it. It takes a few weeks for your money to show up, but that’s it. If you’re a little more gamey, post your books on Amazon, and you might be able to get a little more for them. Use common sense, but price them however you want to. Of course, you’ll be responsible for monitoring your account, shipping them in a timely fashion, and so on, but you might find that you can make a little more going this route.

Personally, I used a combination. Some books I found that I was paid more for by going through one of the sites I mentioned above, and others, I got more from Amazon. The choice is yours. One choice you shouldn’t make under any circumstances-the big bad dreaded on campus bookstore.
Happy holidays, and happy buying and selling!


1 Lana-DreamFollowers Blog December 12, 2009 at 7:33 am

Great advice and exactly what I am sure lots of people need!
.-= Lana-DreamFollowers Blog´s last blog ..Life Purpose: Do you avoid challenges? =-.

2 David/Yourfinances101 December 12, 2009 at 11:08 am

Yes Lana, I hope so too. Especially with the end of the semester coming up.
.-= David/Yourfinances101´s last blog ..Parents, Kids and the Two Sides of Money =-.

3 Jen December 13, 2009 at 4:33 am

Amazon actually takes a much larger commission than sites like and Also, charges a lower shipping rate. When I shop for my books, I always shop a combination of half, amazon and ebay. Also, if you post your books right after the semester is over, you’ll have no problem selling them as long as they don’t update their edition. Also try to buy the books as soon as possible before the start of the semester because the used cheaper books go pretty fast. If done right, you can actually make money during the process. I would buy my books as early as possible and usually be able to sell them for a slightly higher price!

4 David/Yourfinances101 December 13, 2009 at 2:51 pm


Sounds like you’ve got more experience at this than me–thanks for the comment!

I only mentioned Amazon because it seems like the process is easier and less of a hassle than with Ebay. Could be wrong though cuz I’ve never done Ebay.

The “making money during the process” part sounds even better. Thanks for stopping by!
.-= David/Yourfinances101´s last blog ..Parents, Kids and the Two Sides of Money =-.

5 J. Scott Allen January 8, 2010 at 10:26 pm

To combat high textbook prices I always use They are a textbook search engine that searches all the online textbook retailers (including amazon, half, ebay etc) and rental sites (including chegg, bookrenter etc) to find you the best prices. You can even use them at the end of the semester to search for resellers to sell your books to.

6 Lana - DreamFollowers Blog January 9, 2010 at 12:50 am


Great information–thanks for sharing
.-= Lana – DreamFollowers Blog´s last blog ..My 2010 Goals and 2 Awesome Techniques I Used to Set Them. =-.

7 Raul Mendez @ April 14, 2010 at 11:05 pm

That is truly the future. Also truly with the invention of the ipad and also the kindle very soon paper textbooks will likely be a problem from the past…. wait a minute havent we been waiting for our flying cars and jetpacks for greater than 50 many years. For now radical adjustment will be book rentals. The revolution, that may be the textbooks revolution has commenced. Lobbyst and Idealist will fight it out. Meanwhile dont pay out retail. acquire your textbooks on the net and allow the man know.. that he is proceeding down. no additional severe university bookstore charges. obtain on the net.


8 David/yourfinances101 April 15, 2010 at 1:41 am


You make some interesting points!

Thanks for commenting

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: