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Young Adults: What To Do With 4 Years of Textbooks

Written by: Jeff C.

Congratulations on Graduating! Now what about all of those books?

Selling Used TextbooksWell done! You’ve made it through college and now it’s off to grad school, your first real job, giving your start-up dream a go, or embarking on a life-changing experience like the Peace Corps. Or maybe you’re just taking some time to figure out what’s next. While your future is uncertain (both scary AND exciting), that you need to clear out your dorm or apartment and get rid of non-essentials is most certain.

Some of your stuff you’ll take with you on your next endeavor, other stuff you’ll give to friends and those who aren’t graduating just yet; some you’ll stash in your parents’ basement, still other things you’ll recycle or even trash all while wondering why you bought it or held onto it in the first place.

But what about stuff that you can sell or donate, stuff that has some value? And what about the four-years’ worth of textbooks you’ve amassed because you didn’t want to deal with end-of-term buyback or you thought you might need the books later? Now is the time to start fresh by starting the next chapter of your life without lugging around heavy things that you don’t really need. The less you have to pack and move and unpack, the easier and cheaper moving will be.

So back to those books. There’s that Intro to Botany text from three years ago, the one you didn’t want to sell because you thought organic farming was cool. And that Norton Anthology of Poetry that you held onto because that girl you liked really dug that one Shakespeare sonnet on page 487. How about that Practical Statistics text that you just kept holding onto and moving from dorm to dorm because you never got around to taking it to buyback at the bookstore at the end of the semester? You know what we’re talking about: that box (or boxes) of books that it’s long past time to part with.

Clear. Them. Out.
It’s easy, and you might even be pleasantly surprised by getting some cash back. Here’s what to do as soon as you’re done with your books from this semester and you’ve dragged out the ones you’ve been hoarding holding onto semester after semester.

Grab a pen, a pad of Post-Its, and your stack of unwanted books. Have a seat at your desk and put on some music.

  • Go online (as if you aren’t online already) to a site like or Amazon or and one by one, enter each ISBN and see what the going rate is. Write the price on a Post-It and slap it on the book.
  • When you’ve plowed through your stack of unwanted books, put them back in the box and take them to the campus bookstore or another book buyer near your school.
  • If the buyer offers the same or more, awesome, do the deal without having to ship anything and sell the book then and there. If not, put it back in the box so you can sell it online when you get back.
  • Any books you can’t sell for cash or credit, pack them up with your fashion mistakes of the last four years and donate it all to Goodwill or Salvation Army or get your Macklemore on and go with a thrift shop. Or, if you have time and energy, post your books to the campus Buy/Sell/Trade community and look for a student taking a class that uses the book next term

The bottom line: There’s no way to tell how much your books or worth until you go online and check. It’s safe to say that you’re not going to get rich selling back the books you’ve been holding onto throughout your entire college career. But don’t be disappointed. In fact, think of it this way: any cash or credit you get for your unwanted books is cash or credit you didn’t have before your sold them, so that’s a win; also a win is LESS STUFF!

Jeff Cohen of Campusbooks.comJeff C is CEO of and he lives in the Chicago Area. You can read other musings of his at CampusBooks is a textbook price-comparison engine providing students with the best prices for new and used textbooks, rentals, and ebooks. The site also boasts a buyback comparison showing you the best places to sell your books.

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Jason Vitug

Jason Vitug is founder at phroogal, creator of the award-winning project the Road to Financial Wellness, and author of the bestseller and NY Times reviewed book, You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life.

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  1. Great tips Jeff! You would know better than me, but I always found that you should sell them ASAP before new editions come out. It’s crazy how quickly a $150 textbook can be come worthless because a new edition came out during the semester.

    1. I remember buying books that was $300 and the bookstore would buy them back for $50 only to sell them again at $250 as a used book. Now, years removed from school I still managed to sell all the books I had collecting dust in my parents attic.

    2. DC
      Actually, the best time to sell is in April, before the semester ends. Typically this is when the prices are the highest online. But, as you can imagine, it is hard to sell them before finals (that is probably why prices are so high). Your books will decrease in value the longer you hold on to them. You would be surprise how many students keep books throughout college thinking they will need them and then realize they don’t and they are worthless.

      1. That’s what I thought too. I kept onto mine years after college and never once opened them again. I did manage to get some money but we are talking pennies from the original amount I paid.

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