Selling back your textbooks can be the silver lining of many long semesters. Sometimes you can never put that horrible Biology 101 class behind until you actually sell the book back after the final. That Bio class gets the last laugh however when your classmate standing in front of you sells her book back for $50 while you receive $5 for the exact same book. Typically the bookstore employee won't be able to offer an explanation beyond, "I'm sorry that's just what the system told me." Truth be told when you get paid minimum wage you aren't privy to the reasons behind the buyback variances. I however can let you know that the two biggest factors that affect buyback prices are timing and simple economic supply and demand.
The reason for the huge swing in buyback prices between one book and the next is pure supply and demand. The demand for that Bio book consists of 50 students next semester. This means that the bookstore will only pay a premium on the first 50 books that are sold back. Every book sold back after the 50th will unfortunately be at a greatly reduced price. Timing is key during buyback season. The earlier you are able to sell back your texts the more likely you are to fall within the Bookstore's demand criteria. The more money you are going to make.
There is a far more important factor at work than timing. You can curse the people standing at the bookstore counter but they aren't the ones setting the demand for next semester's books. Most students don't think about it, but it's the professors who set the demand. The bookstores aren't forcing you to buy that $300 Shakespeare Folio. The Instructors are the ones who put together the required text lists. Unfortunately, their students' financial wellbeing isn't usually on their minds when they do this.
The earlier a Professor is able to place his or her book order the more beneficial it is to the bookstore and subsequently to the students. In fact the Professor's order is the single most important factor in establishing demand for textbooks across the country. If the bookstore knows that a specific textbook will be used the following the semester the buyback price can skyrocket. Again, the price is determined by the demand. If you want to make the most on your buybacks let your professors know how much you learned from the textbook and encourage them to reorder them quickly. Like students, most Instructors don't think about next semester's books until the end of the current semester.
By: Dan Russell