Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How to Buy and Sell Textbooks Online

In yesterday's article I mentioned that students could purchase textbooks online from both the Pima College Bookstore at or use another online vendor such as eBay's,, etc.

In recent years hundreds of sites have sprung up on the Internet offering individuals and businesses the opportunity to buy and sell both textbooks and other books. While the largest volume on these sites is used books they also sell new books at a substantial discount as well.

While I have been aware of these sites for a long time, I never bothered to check them out or use them until a student in one of my spring 2004 classes suggested to the class that they check online for the text. The book retailed at the bookstore new for $135 and used for $95. She purchased it new on and, with shipping, the total price was $55 . I have since used and to purchase and resell my daughter's text books. By my rough calculations I figure that I pay a little over a third of what I would pay to get the same books at the bookstore. Part of this savings is the fact that I have more access to used books online than in the bookstore but, like the bookstore, I sometimes have to buy new online. I then recover part of what I pay for the books from the proceeds of the sale of the books at the start of the next semester.

To find and purchase textbooks online, first obtain the ISBN number for the book. Like some other instructors, I have begun including the ISBN number on my syllabi or posting them online (see yesterday's article for the ISBN numbers for the books I am using this semester). If the instructor does not provide these you will probably have to make a trip to the bookstore and obtain the ISBN numbers from the books on the shelf by your classes. This number is usually found on the back cover of the book as well as on the title page. An alternative is to obtain the title, publisher and edition and go to the publisher's web page (use a Google search to find the publisher's web page or obtain it from the book). If you do this make sure you have the correct version and edition as each one has a unique ISBN number.

Go online to your favorite site selling the books (I prefer and because I know them and have accounts with them). If you don't have a favorite site, go to Google, type textbooks and hit the search button. You will usually come up with thousands of places to find the books. Not all sites will carry the book you want and many sites found this way will be ones trying to generate ad revenues by listing links to sites actually selling the books. When you find the book you want and at the price you want, order it with your credit card. Many also accept PayPal payments or checks.

To sell your books go to the site that allows individuals to post books for sale, read the Terms page carefully and set up an account to sell books. I prefer, first because I already have an account there (most places let you use the same account to both buy and sell) and because they do not charge a fee until you actually sell a book. There is a lot of competition for textbooks online and I have had books sit on for over a year before selling. With, which is a part of (and lets you use you eBay account for buying and selling) you also have the option of moving the book from to eBay and back to if it doesn't sell. When you do this you are charged eBay listing fees and are subject to eBay time limits. Depending upon the book, you can sometimes sell it faster and at a slightly higher price than on

To list a book on most sites you simply enter the ISBN number, a description and price you are asking. With and many others they will automatically pull up a picture of that edition of the book and give you a suggested price based upon other sales of the book. Once you sell a book ship it using the U.S. Post Office or other shipping service.

1 comment:

D M Brown said...

That's great advice for students.

I started using for textbooks in grad school. I think I resold most of my books for about what I paid -- and made a little money on a couple of them.