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Selling Back Your Books

What BU students need to know


As another school year draws to a close, students once again have to figure out which textbooks to keep and which to sell.

There are numerous options for unloading no longer needed books for cash. Some yield higher return rates, while others boast a convenience factor. Unsure of where to go to sell your books? We’ve put together some helpful information to make it easier to decide what option works best for you.

Barnes & Noble at BU

Barnes & Noble at BU is one of the most popular options for students looking to sell back their used textbooks. Store manager Steve Turco says that the store will even buy back books bought elsewhere. But the store won’t take everything.

Turco says that whether a book is registered to be used in the coming semester is the most important factor the store considers when determining which books to buy back, and the price. “If it’s a book that’s going to be used in the upcoming semester and the professor has notified us, in most cases we will buy it at 50 percent of the selling price of the book,” he says. The store considers several other factors in deciding how much it will pay for a used book: the number of copies in print, the edition year, and of course, its condition.

The main advantage of selling to Barnes & Noble, says Turco, is that the store already knows what books will be needed next semester, information that online sites and mobile book trucks don’t have. “We have a larger percentage of titles that have a higher dollar return than any of the buyback trucks that you see on campus,” Turco notes. “If you bring 10 books to us, chances are you’ll get more money from us than if you brought those same 10 books to one of the trucks.”

There’s another bonus to selling your books at Barnes & Noble: if you’ve forgotten that you actually rented the book from B&N that you’re trying to sell back, the bookstore will flag it for you. However, if you accidentally sell a book you’ve rented from the store to another outfit, you’ll have to pay the used price of the book (75 percent of the purchase price) plus a 7.5 percent processing fee. Find out whether Barnes & Noble at BU will buy back your books here.

Barnes & Noble at BU buys back books during regular store hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. The store does not have a cutoff date for buying back books, but the rental return deadline is May 13.

Boston University BU, selling textbooks, barnes and nobles, amazon.com, books for cash

A stack of used books on a Barnes & Noble at BU shelf will be resold to students. Photo by Cydney Scott

Book trucks

For sheer convenience, you can’t beat the local book trucks that dot campus at the end of each semester. There’s no standing in line, no trips to the post office to mail your books to a website. And many of them will buy back marked up workbooks and study guides as well as old editions—which the campus bookstore will not. But seller beware: chances are you won’t get as much money here as you would elsewhere.

“I sold my books back to the trucks because they are close and convenient,” says Jen Casali (COM’13). “However, they usually only give me $5 or so for a book that cost me over $100. They also don’t accept a lot of my books. That’s why I did it differently this year and rented my books from Barnes & Noble.”

The personnel at the trucks we spoke to said a book’s condition and its popularity at schools across the country determine whether they’ll take the book and how much they’ll pay.

The book trucks most frequently park in the East Campus area on Granby Street and Silber Way, and on West Campus on Commonwealth Avenue near Agganis Arena. Days and times vary by truck, but they’re typically there from 9 a.m. until early evening on weekdays and in some instances on Saturdays as well.

Online sites

If you don’t need the money immediately, you may want to consider selling your textbooks through one of the more reputable commercial websites, such as Amazon, half.com, or Chegg.com.

“I sell my books on Amazon.com,” says Alexander Gazman (ENG’13). “I get more money doing that than by selling them on the street or at Barnes & Noble.”

At Amazon and half.com, you can choose the price you want for a book: you then wait for a buyer. The money goes directly to you, but you must ship the book yourself. Another site, Chegg.com, will buy your books directly and give you a price quote so you know in advance how much you’ll get. But read the small print. You don’t get cash back. Instead, you get either what’s called Chegg Credit, which you can use in the future to rent or buy books or services on the website, or a prepaid Serve Card from American Express that is accepted wherever American Express cards can be used. Chegg will send you a prepaid shipping label, but you need to drop your books off at a United Parcel Service store, not a post office.

And it’s important to note that Chegg accepts only books that are in very good condition. That means no broken spines, torn or missing pages, or excessive marking up. Find more details here. On Amazon and half.com, you can sell books in any condition, but you must accurately describe their condition to potential buyers.

Social media

Some students report that the best way to get a good return on your books is using social media to find buyers in the BU community.

“It’s the easiest way to find people who are taking the same classes. It is also easy to meet up and exchange, and you make more money than if you sell back at Barnes & Noble or the trucks,” says Sarah Fleet Coleman (SAR’14, CAS’14). “For classes where I barely used the book, I’ll sell it for about a third less, and if it is pretty used, then I’ll do half off. I’m always flexible with prices because I’d rather sell it for less than not at all. Usually people will just ask if I can go down on the price over a Facebook message.”

There is also a public Facebook group called BU Students Selling BU Books for BU Courses, which has almost 3,000 members.

Selling back your books on social media lets you target your audience to the BU community and avoid shipping. It also allows for the greatest amount of negotiation.

How do you sell your unwanted textbooks? Tell us in the comments section below.

Andreia DeVries can be reached at adevries@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @andreia_dev.


12 Comments on Selling Back Your Books

  • D.K. on 05.08.2013 at 6:57 am

    Good tip – renting books is probably the worst thing you can do if you’re trying to save money. In the long run, you spend less money buying a book and selling it back.

    • ss on 05.08.2013 at 10:55 am

      except when all your books are written by Bu Professors and no one buys them back.

  • Chris on 05.08.2013 at 10:43 am

    Facebook made selling my books super easy. Two posts and I sold all my books in just a couple days. And like the article mentioned, it’s comvenient just to meet up on campus and not worry about shipping.

  • Brian on 05.08.2013 at 11:50 am

    “in most cases we will buy it at 50 percent of the selling price of the book”–Are we talking about the same barnes and noble? I’ve always goten a better price at the book trucks

  • Anonymous on 05.08.2013 at 2:01 pm

    I had a like-new textbook which the bookstore offered to buy for $0.25. I walked away and sold it on Amazon (less than a week later) for $76.00. Choose wisely.

  • Kathy St.Louis on 05.08.2013 at 4:35 pm

    I beg to differ with the information in the article about Barnes & Noble “flagging” books that are rented. My daughter returned a rented book to Barnes & Noble, it was NOT flagged & she was later charged for the full price of that book, which the store had accepted & had in its warehouse someplace.

  • Here's a tip on 05.08.2013 at 4:58 pm

    Make sure that you check out several online sites when getting buy-back prices. Often times, different sites will give you different prices. Then it is just a matter of selling your books back to the sites that offer the best price.

  • Brandon Checketts on 05.08.2013 at 8:34 pm

    You should definitely also look up your books on BookScouter.com. It will list the buyback prices from all of the major online buyback sites. These sites will provide you with a pre-paid shipping label and send you payment in only a few days (as soon as you ship off your book and they receive it).

  • Hannah on 05.09.2013 at 12:02 am

    The Amazon.com part is not entirely accurate–if you “trade in,” Amazon will pay for your shipping, and you get an Amazon gift card for the amount, which can be used for a lot more things than just textbooks.

  • Tatiana on 05.09.2013 at 11:31 am

    Sounds like an ad for B&N if you ask me. I sell on ebay and get way more than the trucks or B&N

  • Alex on 05.22.2013 at 11:41 am

    I always just buy the used old editions on amazon…buying the new copies at amazon is ridiculous…Ive sold my books to people for literally triple what i paid. But if i only paid like 15 bucks for a book sometimes i keep them

    • Alex on 05.22.2013 at 11:42 am

      I mean to say that buying them from the bookstore is a huge waste of money

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