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FAQ on Used Books

Why do college stores sell used books?

College stores sell used books as a service to students. The process of buying back and reselling used textbooks is one of the most direct ways for students to save on textbook expenses.

Are used books valued by students?

Yes. According to the Student Watch™ fall 2013 report, students ranked the ability to purchase used textbooks as the fourth most important factor when considering where to buy textbooks.


Because of student demand, used books accounted for $1.51 billion in college store sales during the 2011-12 academic year and made up 14.5% of U.S. college store total sales, according to NACS’ 2013 Industry Financial Report. Used textbooks made up 30% of all textbooks sold. Many stores believe that given students’ demand for used books, these percentages would be higher if more used books were available.

What is the average price for a used textbook?

Used textbooks are typically priced at 75% of the retail price of the new book.

Does the sale of used textbooks raise the price of new textbooks?

No. In 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the independent investigative research arm of Congress, investigated the rise of textbook pricing. The GAO concluded: “While many factors affect textbook pricing, the increasing costs associated with developing products designed to accompany textbooks, such as CD-ROMs and other instructional supplements, best explain price increases in recent years.”

How do college stores acquire used books?

College stores use a variety of methods to secure used books for students. One familiar strategy for obtaining used books is through buyback events, where books are purchased from students for resale. College stores also work with textbook wholesale companies to secure additional copies of used books, or books that may not have been available during their campus’ buyback.


© National Association of College Stores

Revised: January 2014

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