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What are the Advantages of Buying a Used Textbook?

By M. Walker
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are many advantages to buying a used textbook for a class instead of a new one. Not only is a used textbook usually cheaper, but it is also often easier to purchase and resell than a new textbook. Additionally, buying pre-owned textbooks is more environmentally friendly, and it provides the opportunity to read marginal notes or highlighted segments from the previous owners.

The price of a used textbook is generally much less than that of a new textbook, and buying used can yield significant savings. For example, used science textbooks are often around 50% or 60% of the price of the newer versions of the same books, with some reduced as low as 30% of the price of the new book. Many used books are the same edition as their newer counterparts, so students will not miss out on any updated information, and page numbers or chapter order will be the same.

Purchasing a used textbook is also much more convenient for a number of reasons. First, pre-owned textbooks are often greater in number than new textbooks, so bookstores and websites generally have more used books in stock, or more connections to used book sellers. Second, used textbooks can be bought at second hand shops, online, in school bookstores, or even from friends who have previously taken the same class, while new textbooks can generally only be found online and in bookstores. Lastly, reselling a used textbook will often yield a greater percentage of the original purchase price than reselling a new textbook. This means that if a student does not plan to keep the book, he or she will lose less of its value when reselling.

An additional advantage of used textbooks is the fact that they are environmentally friendly. Ultimately, buying a used textbook will decrease the future need for the production of new college books if many other students are following suit. Many students value the reduction in paper consumption by purchasing used textbooks.

To many students’ delight, used textbooks also frequently contain marginal notes and highlighting that could prove beneficial when studying. Some of these notes will be facts or data that are not included in the textbook itself, providing extra relevant information and study material. For students that plan on skimming the book, highlighted sections will also generally be an advantage, as they may point out the book’s most important information and key concepts of each chapter. Many students find that they also benefit from taking additional notes in the book to pass on to its next owner upon resale.

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Discussion Comments
By bagley79 — On Jun 22, 2011

I have never bought a used textbook that did not look like it was almost new. Not only can you save some money when you buy a used textbook, but you may also get some money back when you are finished using it and it is a good way to recycle.

There are many places to buy used textbooks online. The only thing I look for here is how much the cost of shipping will be. If you have to order from several companies, it may be better to buy used books from your college bookstore.

By LisaLou — On Jun 21, 2011

I think there are many advantages to buying used textbooks - the biggest one being how much money you can save by doing so. Most places that sell textbooks, will also have the option to buy used college textbooks.

Sometimes they are not available in the edition you need, but that is always my first choice, if possible. In addition to your college bookstore, there are many places online where you can do this. If you know your class schedule soon enough, this can be the way to go.

I find it best to do some price comparison to make sure I am getting the lowest price possible for the edition I need. Just because one company has the lowest price on one book, doesn't mean they will always have the lowest prices. I have seen quite as bit of variation on different books and companies.

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