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Yesterday I was chatting with my friend Zack, one of the co-founders of College Finance 101. This being buyback season, the conversation jumped to the topic of textbooks and the seemingly weird world of book-buyback.

During our chat, Zack told me that he’d finished an exam earlier in the day and when he went to sell back the main textbook used for the course, the campus bookstore wasn’t buying it. While this was a disappointment, the part that added insult to injury was that a friend of Zack’s who had taken the same class and used the same book, was able to sell hers (for a tidy sum of $75 no less) just a few days ago. When Zack mentioned this to the bookstore employee, Zack was told that a new edition of the textbook was expected soon and that his friend had been able to sell her book back because hers wasn’t considered an old edition at the time. What a difference a few days makes!

In addition to this story being all too true, it’s all too common. That said, let’s look at what’s at work here and why it often seems so confusing and frustrating. As we discussed in our most recent blog entry, “Selling Back Books: A Few Simple Rules,” the textbook market behaves as all markets do, namely with sensitivity to supply and demand. Those factors are in constant flux and subject to external forces (kinda like the news of the new edition that popped up in between the time that Zack went to sell his book back and got denied and the time when his friend sold hers for $75). It’s pretty hard to tell what really happened to Zack. Sure, new editions do crop up and render older editions obsolete or less valuable, but chances are also good that the bookstore maxed out on demand and didn’t need Zack’s copy. And honestly, the confusing reasons don’t much matter when Zack’s still left with a book he doesn’t need and his friend has cash instead.

So what do you need to know to improve your chances for being able to sell your books back and get the best prices for them? It’s crazy-simple actually: sell your books ASAP because the longer you wait, the greater the chances of demand being met and/or a new edition appearing, both of which will put the kibosh on your opportunity to turn books into bucks. Also remember that you have options beyond the campus bookstore; in fact, using the CampusBooks.com Selling Tools, there’s a whole marketplace at your fingertips, a marketplace with an entirely different supply-and-demand spectrum not to mention buyers who are willing to make due with an edition that’s not the very latest.

And hey, I almost forgot! While we’re talking about buyback, we want to hear more from you! Got a buyback tale to tell? A horror story? An awesome experience? Words of wisdom for your fellow students? Let us know and if we feature your story, we’ll throw a $25 gift card your way.

–Jeff

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