Sell Back or Cash In?

By: Traci Taylor
December 2012

When finals are over, and the textbooks that students have spent hundreds of dollars on are no longer required, what do the majority of college students do with them?

The options of what to do with textbooks after a course is finished have expanded with the accessibility of the Internet. Students are no longer limited to selling their books back to the university.

Access to the Internet makes it possible for students to sell or rent their textbooks from different websites. In today’s generation students are taking advantage of every option they have when the semester is done and their textbooks are no longer needed.

College students aren’t known to have money to be able to just throw around.

So what does the typical college student do when it is time to spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks for classes? More importantly, what do they do when the book they obtained for a class is no longer required?

A survey conducted, using the social media site, Facebook, asked a group of students, “What do you do with your textbooks at the end of the semester?” The results of the survey showed that even though the Internet is available for students to make cash from their books, some still choose to go a different route.

44 percent of the students surveyed on Facebook responded that they sell their books back to the university at the end of the semester. Many students refuse to sell back to their school because of the price the university offers compared to other outlets. The students who choose the option of selling back to their University either find it easy and convenient or are unaware that they can make more money if they sell them back somewhere else.

The ability to rent textbooks from the student’s school is also available, depending on what university or college the student attends. Millersville University’s book store provides this as an option for their students. Eddie Williams, a senior at Rowan University, said, “I rent the books (from the university) and simply return them at the end of the semester.”

Selling and renting textbooks online is also an option for college students. It is a way to both save and make money. A popular website to rent books online is Samantha Douglass, junior at Seton Hall University, said, “I rent my books from either Chegg or the university.” Renting textbooks has become a more popular option for students in recent years.

Ultimately, it is the student’s decision regarding what to do with their textbooks at the end of the semester. It is important for students to be aware of their options when selling their unneeded textbooks and that they aren’t limited to just one action.

Keeping textbooks is also a possibility. Whether the reason is the textbook was useful or the student cannot seem to get rid of it. In the survey given, students did not choose the option of keeping their textbooks, but they did comment suggesting such. Rebecca McCann, student at Rowan University, said “I keep the textbooks relevant to my major (kissing my bank account away), and sell the rest to online sites.”

Other students that participated in the survey mentioned that the books they ended up keeping were the ones that they thought would help them in the future.

38 percent of students that took the survey said they sold their textbooks to an online site at the end of the semester. Some of the sites mentioned include Amazon, Half (partner of E-Bay), and Chegg (for renting books). The majority of students chose this option because they found it benefited them financially in comparison to other options available.

In addition, Millersville University has the option for their students to sell back books at the end of the semester to certain vendors. Many students choose to compare the price quoted by the university bookstore with the price offered at the independent vendors before selling their books.   Of the Millersville University students surveyed, the majority said they go to the vendors on campus to sell back their textbooks.  Megan Sullivan, a senior at Millersville University, said “I sell my textbooks back to the street vendors in the vans that are parked outside at the end of the semester.” Kelly Hess, a senior at Millersville University, also agreed with Sullivan’s response.

There does not seem to be a single best solution for selling back textbooks at the end of the semester. The results revealed that it depends on the textbook, student, and the status of their bank account.


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