The cost of college tuition and expenses is rising at a constant rate, and many people may wonder if selling their used textbooks at the end of the semester is a good way to earn back some of these costs. The truth is that holding onto textbooks after a course is over is the same as throwing away the value of those books as professors routinely change the textbooks used every semester.

The Value of Used Textbooks

If a professor no longer uses the book you bought when you took the class, the textbook you own is worth perhaps one-third of its previous value on Amazon or eBay. Your best strategy when dealing with hard copies of textbooks is to sell them as soon as possible to get back as much of their remaining value as you can. However, a more efficient way to minimize college costs is to rent or borrow all the textbooks you can find for a semester. The cheapest way to pay for books is to get free books, and you can find many free textbooks in e-book formats on the Project Gutenberg website or Google Books. Simply doing a Google search for the e-book version of a textbook often turns up several results if the book is several years old or an updated edition is in circulation.

You may consider using an older edition of a textbook and simply supplementing the new material from another source, such as a library copy or a fellow student’s version. However, most new textbooks aren’t available for free, for obvious reasons, and you have to either buy, rent or borrow them, depending on the most cost-effective option at your disposal.

What To Do If You Can’t Find Free E-Books

Your first choice should be to look for a copy of the book at the library because you can simply scan the parts of the book you need and transfer them to a USB drive, an option almost as convenient as downloading a free e-book. If the library doesn’t have a copy of the book you need, you will have to weigh the decision to buy a hard copy of the book from the bookstore or rent an e-book version from a website such as Chegg or Textbook Rentals.

Your decision should be based on how much money you can get back by selling the book at the end of the semester. If the cost of the book minus the resale value is higher than the cost to rent the book, you should rent the e-book version. If the cost to buy the book minus its resale value is lower than the cost to rent it, you should buy it. In both cases, you can create a permanent copy for yourself by either printing the e-book version or scanning the hardback version. It’s much easier to print the e-book because all you have to do is click “Print,” whereas scanning the hardback requires a couple of hours of standing in front of the library scanner.

The cost of college may be going up, but the consequences of not going to college are getting worse every year. The trade-off is that improved health care and overall life expectancy are increasing the amount of money you can earn throughout your career. If the resale value of used textbooks is a concern, you have several alternatives at your disposal.

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