It’s the end of the academic period, and you’re loaded down with textbooks you find yourself not needing anymore. What’s a (likely) broke college student to do? Well, there’s textbook buyback. You sell your textbooks to bookstores for a portion of what you paid for it, and the stores sell the books back to students next year. This structure allows students to quickly and easily get rid of their old textbooks in exchange for some spare change. At the end of each academic quarter or semester, campus bookstores will offer to buy the books back at a fraction of the original price. However, this option is only limited to during a specific time during the year. So what’s someone to do if they have textbooks they want to sell outside of the buyback season? Luckily for everyone, online textbook stores will buy books at any time of the year. These websites will buy your books whenever you want to sell them, which means there’s no rush to get rid of your textbooks immediately. Perfect for those who want to enjoy textbooks outside the confines of the class syllabus. It’s also a quick way to make some money by selling something that’s simply taking up space and not getting any use anyway. While campus bookstores may seem to be the obvious option to buy books from, their prices are typically higher, and you’re unlikely to get the best deals.
Textbook buyback is the smartest choice for college students. They sell their books to bookstores, and the bookstores resell them to incoming students at a discounted price. Students get to earn a bit of cash for books next semester and allow incoming students to find books for a cheaper price. Money is saved all around, and buyback also supports businesses like used bookstores. Everyone’s a winner.
Online buyback websites offer a more convenient way of getting money back for old textbooks. Students can not only sell their old books back but also they can use these sites as a less expensive way to obtain books for the next school year. Since textbook prices are not controlled by the laws of supply and demand, they can be quite high. They operate on what is considered a “broken market”. Students do not get to choose which product to buy, and professors do not have to buy the books they require, which makes price a non-deciding factor. Professors dictate which books students need and students in turn have no choice but to get the book. Full price textbooks every single academic period would amount to an astronomical amount of money over the course of an entire college career. Buying used books from buyback websites would save a student a lot of money over the years.
So how does an online textbook store work? It’s quite simple. Enter the ISBN of your book into the website to get a quote. That’s how much the company is willing to pay you for your books. If it’s a price you can live with, package your books and ship them to the company. Step three, profit. You’ll be receiving payment for your books a few days after their shipment. Buying books is even easier. Find the book you want at a lower price and receive it a few days later. For college students who might be living on a budget, this is a smart way to save money.
There are quite a few factors in the textbook industry that make it a competitive market. At the most basic level, there’s the inter-student textbook exchange. Students sell their books to people who are taking the next class. Books and money exchange hands very conveniently. The advent of digital textbooks also took a bite out of the industry. There’s nothing to sell or buy back if the books are digital. Keeping in mind that society as a whole is moving towards a more digital front, publishers have started to focus on the ebook portion of their business. Students find that attractive; instead of carrying around a whole bunch of heavy books, they have everything they need on a tablet or computer.
The open source movement, while great, is not doing wonders for the textbook industry. The concept behind this is to spread intellectual property and make it available to everyone. Users are allowed to share freely or change the content as they please. They are usually under public domain or licensed in a way that allows for free use. To students, this means that sometimes they don’t even have to buy textbooks. They can find it for free on the internet in a legal way, and what beats both free and legal? Also, students are allowed to create copies and distribute these books as it pleases them. Open source textbooks are free to students, which is great for them, but not so much for booksellers. Why would anyone pay for something that you can get for free? This movement is gaining momentum, which spells for a dimmer future for booksellers all around.
Despite what copyright holders would have you think, selling your old books does not infringe on any copyright. Thanks to the First Sale Doctrine, once you buy a copy of a book, you are the master of that physical copy. The “first sale” portion refers to the fact that the copyright owner maintains rights over the specific copy of work until it is first sold. Anything you could possibly want to do to the copy, you can within reason. Of course, none of the intellectual property is yours to do with as you wish, but the copy you own is fair game. Some publishing houses try to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as justification for banning selling second-hand books but as selling does not infringe on any rights, that’s neither here nor there. In Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., the Supreme Court ruled that the First Sale Doctrine even applied to materials lawfully made abroad. It is quite legal for a person to buy textbooks abroad for the purpose of selling in the United States. Such practices still fall under a lawful interpretation of the doctrine.
The textbook buyback industry is undergoing rapid change, due in part to the creation of the digital aspect of the business. The rise of digital textbooks and the open source movement has hindered the used textbook field. Nonetheless, they solid ways for students to get rid of their old-fashioned textbooks and non-open source books in exchange for some extra money.