Though prices have gone up, students' spending on textbooks has remained largely unchanged. This suggests that students are finding new and creative ways to save money. Today, two-thirds of students choose not to buy new textbooks, seeing them as too expensive. As a result, used and discounted textbooks are more in demand than ever before. This is one of the strongest factors driving the market for textbook sellback.
Because most college students begin and end their semesters around the same times, the market for textbooks follows a seasonal cycle. In 2012, Extrabux.com analyzed online patterns of demand, examining trends in searches for textbooks. Searches on Google Shopping were found to peak in mid-August and the beginning of January, both immediately prior to when fall and spring semesters typically begin.
An analysis of average textbook sellback prices from BookScouter.com likewise confirms this, finding that the top sellback prices are typically offered around the same peaks in demand: mid-August and January. This timing can be significant, as the average price grew from a low of about $47 in June to a peak of nearly $59 in August, a growth of around 25%.
With any product, consumers will naturally prefer to purchase it at a lower price. For instance, if many sellers are offering the same textbook, buyers won’t choose to pay $110 if they can get the book elsewhere for $90. This means that when selling textbooks, it’s important to take other sellers’ prices into account.
When listing your books for sale, setting your prices lower than average will decrease your revenue, but may also increase the chances of your book being sold. Alternatively, setting a higher-than-average price can be appropriate based on the quality of your textbooks and any bonus materials that are included. A moderately-worn textbook which is missing its included CD will warrant a lower price than a like-new textbook with an unused disc included. Similarly, a previous edition of a textbook may still be in demand, but not as much as the latest edition, meaning that the newer edition will command a higher price.
Different venues may offer widely varying prices for your used textbooks. College bookstores, for example, often advertise that you can expect up to 50% of the book’s original value. However, for most books, you may be paid substantially less than that.
Online bookstores buying back textbooks will often differ substantially in their price quotes, ranging anywhere from 35% to 70% of the original price.
In venues where you’re setting your own price, such as eBay, Craigslist, or in-person advertising and sales, it can be crucial to adjust your prices according to the market as explained above. With Craigslist and in-person selling, you may have the opportunity to negotiate prices individually, based on how much a buyer is willing to pay.
Since 1970, textbook costs have grown threefold after accounting for inflation, and today, the average US college student spends about $1,200 on textbooks and other supplies.
Between 2002 and 2012, the price of new college textbooks has been on the rise, nearly doubling.