I Put Myself Through College by Selling Textbooks; Here’s How You Can Stop Getting Ripped Off

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I put myself through college in four days by using one simple-but-effective textbook sales technique.

No, I’m not kidding, and no, there’s nothing stopping you from saving cash by doing the same exact thing—with a minor procedural change or two.

To understand this golden-ticket technique, a couple of important characteristics of the textbook resale market must first be defined.

College Books are Expensive, and Students Want to Be Repaid ASAP

A typical college student will spend over 1,300 dollars on materials—namely books—during a school year. Like the cost of tuition, the cost of textbooks has increased exponentially in recent years. Unlike tuition, though, every textbook presents students with a means of receiving an immediate return on their investment: resale. The vast majority of students don’t hesitate to sell their books soon after the corresponding courses are completed.

And the most common way for students to get cash for their books is by visiting a bookstore. To be sure, this is exactly what I was doing when the potential of the resale market hit me. The store’s kind sales associate typed my books’ ISBN numbers into the computer, read the trade-in values of the screen, and made me an offer.

As a reflex, I nearly accepted. Then it occurred to me that the offered amount was a fraction of my out-of-pocket cost.

I kindly backed out of the transaction and waited outside the bookstore for other textbook-equipped college students. I told each of these individuals the same thing: The trade-in values offered by the store were abysmal, and I was willing to pay more. Payments would be made in cash, no questions asked.

I received a couple of dirty looks and a couple of eager nods. I used my offers as guidelines and dispatched cash immediately. After an hour, my arms were full, my wallet was empty, and I was beginning to feel a bit nervous about the entire thing. Would I be able to make my money back? Then, remembering how much my books cost and how much the store had offered me, I dropped my purchases off at my car, hit up the ATM, tapped into my savings, and headed back to the store.

The manager was waiting outside. I guess he’d noticed the influx of clients asking for trade-in values and then opting to leave without completing their transaction. Just like that, my spree was over.


The Turning Point

On Day Two, with the prospect of financial success spurring me forward, I designed and printed a flier that advertised a simple, straightforward way for students to get more money for their old textbooks. I included my name and number on the bottom of the flier and hung not a few copies around my dorm, my campus, and my neighborhood.

I could barely keep up with the influx of responses. Some students had received lowball offers from other buyers; others had heard of these lowball offers. Significantly, all seemed to recognize that my prices were fair. I found a copy of the bookstore’s trade-in rates online, printed it, and quoted students up to 20% more—an amount that, per other websites, left me more than enough room to turn a profit.

By Day Three, I had a substantial number of textbooks—but I was almost out of cash. I listed the items for sale on auction websites and found immediate success. I spent the last of my cash (and a bit I borrowed from my parents), stockpiled books, and sold them as quickly as I could.

In this way, I put myself through college in four days. I offered students more for their books than the bookstores did, and I turned a hefty profit on each sold item. That’s the bottom line—it worked like a charm for me, and it helped sellers to get more cash than they otherwise would have.

The Future of Textbook Sales

Perhaps the biggest contributor to my textbook-selling success was the lack of options that students had. There weren’t many ways to buy or sell college books without investing a lot of time and a little bit of money—besides taking whatever bookstores were willing to pay.

Today, though, college students do have options. A lot has changed in the last few years. For instance, anyone can sell textbooks through leading websites, and doing so only takes a matter of minutes. If I’d known of this option when I was buying and selling, I most certainly would have taken advantage of it. Similarly, these same resources allow individuals to buy college-required books for pennies on the dollar.

I put myself through college in four days by buying and reselling books, but now, every student can save a bit of cash by intelligently purchasing and redistributing their college materials. There isn’t as much centralized profit to speak of, but there isn’t as much centralized cost, either.

Thanks for taking the time to read. Remember that there are financially beneficial ways to buy and sell textbooks today—ways that aid purchasers and sellers by cutting out the middlemen who used to corner the market and make a killing.

The best part of all is that it’s easier to use the money-saving book-selling techniques than it is to lose cash and stick to the traditional methods. Internet-based textbook marketplaces don’t even require users to leave the dorm.

Thanks again, and here’s to more affordable college!

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