Selling Used Books

posted in: Posts by Alex, Frugal Friday | 30
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Selling Used Books | Thrifty Below

Last week on Frugal Friday, Caitlynn talked about how to save money when buying books, but what happens when you’ve finished the book? Or when the semester ends? Today we’ll be focusing on selling your used books and earning a little money back.

The biggest thing to consider is how much time you want to put into your book selling. Generally, the more time and effort you put in, the more money you will make, but it will all depend on what book you’re selling. I’m going to use Puntos de Partida, 9th Edition as an example throughout the discussion of options. It’s a college-level Spanish textbook that retails for over $145.

1.) Donation
You won’t personally make any money, but donating is super easy and you’ll be helping a good cause. If your used books are in good condition, put them in a grocery bag and swing by your local Goodwill. This is a great option for books that aren’t worth a lot of money (like paperback novels) or older editions of textbooks.

2.) Garage Sale
Hosting your own garage sale can be time consuming, but mooching off a friend is easy! Ask around — if a friend, neighbor, coworker, or family member is planning a garage sale, don’t be afraid to ask if you can add a few items. Box together similar books (like romance paperbacks) and write the price per book on the box. If your friend is selling books too, be sure to use little neon stickers with your initials so you know who the money goes.

Garage sales can be an awesome way to unload a lot of books in a short amount of time. It’s not super lucrative, but if you have a lot of general books, you can sell them all quickly and put a little money in the bank. I wouldn’t recommend selling specialized books (like textbooks) at a garage sale, as it would be difficult to attract the right type of customer.

3. Textbook Buy Back
If you’re looking for an simple way to sell back your textbooks, look no further than your college bookstore! At the end of the semester, you can walk in and they’ll scan your books and hand you cash. You won’t always get top dollar because they want to make money selling them to students next semester, but it’s quick and easy. At the end of each semester at my undergraduate university, there were textbook buy back spots set up all over campus, even on the lawns in front of sorority houses.

I did a quick search and checked out how much money you would make selling back our book, Puntos de Partida, at my college bookstore.

Selling Used Books | Thrifty Below

$50? Not too shabby! But let’s keep looking at other options.

4. University Book Exchange or Textbook Swap
If you’re a student looking to sell back your textbooks, check to see if your school has a book exchange. It’s a marketplace set up to connect students and help them sell back their books. Since you’re avoiding the middleman and selling directly to another student, you can earn more money than from a textbook buy back. Just check the price of the used book at your campus bookstore, subtract a couple bucks, and post an ad on the book exchange website. You and the future book owner will meet up at the student union or another neutral location, and trade the book for cash. Lots of schools have these book exchange programs, but whether or not the students use them depends on the school. The book exchange at my undergraduate university was pretty popular, but the one at my graduate school has no postings.

5. Amazon Trade In
If you don’t mind being paid in Amazon gift cards (and who would!), the Amazon Trade In program can be an awesome option for selling unwanted books.

It’s really easy too! Just type the ISBN or book title into the search bar.

Selling Used Books | Thrifty Below

And Amazon will tell you how much your book is worth. I used our example book, Puntos de Partida.

Selling Used Books | Thrifty Below

They’ll give you a gift card for $71.67 if it’s in good condition. That’s over $20 more than the textbook buy back!

6. eBay
eBay is a great option for selling both textbooks and regular books. The process is a little more involved than the previously mentioned options (you’ll have to pack and ship the book when it sells), but depending on the book, it can be well worth it!

When you’re ready, head over to and click on “Advanced.” It’s in the top right, next to the “Search” button.

Selling Used Books | Thrifty Below

We want to determine a good price for our listing, so type in the name of the book and click “Completed Listings.” This will show you how much your book has recently sold for.

Selling Used Books | Thrifty Below

Double check to make sure you’re looking at the book itself and not a workbook, review guide, CD, or other related item. These are the four most recently completed listings. The green price on the right shows us the selling price. If the prices had been red, it would have meant that no one purchased the books.

Based on the recent selling prices, we could safely charge between $59.99 and $69.99 for the book. That’s still less than the Amazon Trade In, so we’ll stick with Amazon for today.

What do you think? Where do you go to sell your used books?

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30 Responses

  1. I love garage sales a good place to buy and sale! Thank you for the info

    • Thanks Paula! I love garage sales too — they’re one of the best parts of summer!

  2. So much great information. There are some books I could really get rid of.

    • Ugh me too! We just keep accumulating books and I’m running out of room for them!

  3. I did not know amazon got into the buy back game.. eBay is always a good outlet to sell books..

    • I was surprised too! I didn’t find about it until I was buying books for my summer classes and saw a little banner on Amazon.

  4. Don’t forget you can just become an Amazon seller, you don’t have to use their trade-in program!

    • Definitely! It’s a little bit more work than the Trade In, but the Amazon Marketplace is a good option too.

  5. We usually donate our old/ used books and me on the other hand have found amazing books on garage sale or book store that sell’s second hand books.

    • Agreed! Sometimes thrift shops have awesome books. My mom does quite well reselling thrift store books on eBay.

  6. I could do away with the university books, but the stuff I leisurely read …. I’ll have a separation anxiety. It’s a collection and my heart will be broken if I donate or give them away :(

    • I completely understand! There are some books we won’t be getting rid of, but we’ve accumulated a lot of extras that don’t really matter.

  7. Selling old books is a great way to declutter the room and raise funds.

  8. We’ve purchased textbooks from Amazon but I’ve never thought to sell them back. How silly of me.

  9. These are great ideas. I just recently went with my daughter for her semester buy back. One they didn’t want so she used Amazon and sold it there.

  10. Rebecca Swenor

    Great information thanks. When I went to college I did the exchange thing with the school book store.

  11. I homeschooled my kiddos the last few years and have way too many books lying around here. It would be great to get some of that money back.

  12. I just donate our books to people who need it,,

  13. Nice tips. Donation is always the best option. All have right to knowledge themselves. Anyways nice article. Cheers :)

  14. It’s great how there are programs to help students with their books nowadays! During the college, books eat a huge part of the budget. And you don’t usually need them later on.

    • I totally agree, Joanna! Thankfully the internet has made it super easy to comparison shop, buy books from other sources, and sell back your used textbooks.

  15. When I was in college, I kept most of my textbooks. I wish now that I had sold them as they are outdated anyway.

    • We keep the textbooks that are relevant to our fields, but sell the rest while we can. Plus we moved almost every year in college and it’s hard to move a growing stack of textbooks.

  16. Thanks for this collection! I love buying and selling books so this is a handy resource!

  17. This would be a program to help kids read from books not on just internet

  18. katherine

    I used to sell a lot of used books online

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