We all know that textbooks are expensive. But plenty of classes still require them -- so I usually rent instead of buying. But what if the textbooks you need aren't available to be rented? Then, friends, I suggest you head to Amazon to buy a used copy. If you're interested in graduating debt-free, or with a minimum of student debt, keep this in mind as a cost-saving tip: you can resell your textbooks from the previous semester for credit toward your current textbook needs.
Here's what my ledger looks like from earlier this year when I began selling books on Amazon:
Jan 3 +31.40
Jan 30 +16.09
Apr 9 +14.36
June 18 +75.90
July 2 +5.85
July 16 +15.13
July 30 +13.01
Aug 13 +51.97
Aug 27 +16.76
Jan 8 -92.61
Jan 8 -35.85
Jun 24 -8.44 (for a 271A title I couldn't get from the library)
Aug 7 -35.98
Aug 8 -18.42
Aug 8 -3.38
Aug 9 -44.49
Aug 9 -66.67
(purchases are listed as Amazon charged them when they shipped -- I paid all in one chunk on August 7th for fall term)
So that means I only spent $65.37 on my textbooks so far this calendar year -- the other 78% of my costs were covered by selling my old textbooks and a few older paperbacks I didn't want to keep. And if I keep them in good condition -- no highlighting, no water stains -- I can resell them at winter break and probably come out even.
A few tips from a novice:
Selling on Amazon doesn't have to cost you money, but it will cost time. I have the luxury of a support person at home who packages books and takes them to the post office while I am at work. If you are working alone and you're selling a lot of books, you can carve out a time -- maybe twice a week -- when you deliver packages for shipping, and still make the 2-business-day window between order receipt and shipment confirmation that good customer service requires. Or you can have Amazon ship your wares for you as orders come in, but that service is provided for a fee and is generally for middling-to-large businesses, not starving student types. If you're just reselling your own textbooks from term to term, you already know when the rushes are going to be -- when you're buying your own textbooks! Make sure you list your books for sale as soon as you no longer need them to study from. The early birds who are scouting out their upcoming greensheets will snap them up.
Only resell items you would be okay with receiving if you bought them. If your textbooks have markings or notes, say that in your description. If the spine is cracked or broken, but all the pages are attached and intact, that's saleable, but it probably will rate "Acceptable" and you won't be able to get as much for it. If you have anything still readable that's below "Acceptable", I suggest putting it aside with other books like it until you have a bagful, and then listing the bag on Craigslist or Freecycle, just to get it out of the house at no cost to you.
Amazon takes a commission for each item sold, so make sure you're setting your prices high enough to be worth it. Some vendors can offer popular items for "$0.01 + $3.99 shipping", but that nets a negative amount if you're paying out of pocket for shipping. You have to decide for yourself how much the work is worth to you. For paperbacks, I set a minimum price of $2.99. Amazon's commission and shipping fees (set against the standard $3.99 shipping credit they pay me) mean I net less than a dollar per book, but it's out of my house, and I got something for it. Every little bit counts, right? Textbooks, of course, cost a lot more and can be resold for more -- mine have averaged $20-$60 dollars as listed. They're also heavy, usually, and will cost more to ship -- remember to factor that in! Generally, look at what the market will bear by seeing what other used copies (especially those in the same condition as yours) are going for. You can choose to match the lowest price, or set your own.
Once you've sold something, Amazon will keep your credit on file for you to use on a later Amazon purchase, or you can set up a regular transfer to a checking account. I get my proceeds in cash (ACH transfer) and put them into my grad school savings account until I need to buy more textbooks or supplies. You might want to put the funds toward airfare or a road trip or something like that. Yes, there are gaps where no one buys anything, but over time my bookshelves have emptied a little, and I'm gaining more room in the very crowded apartment. It's certainly paid off for me, with a minimum of effort.
Have you ever sold used books on Amazon? What would you sell on Amazon besides textbooks? Where would you spend your earnings?