Selling Textbooks at UCLA


Earlier today, I tried to sell a few textbooks that had been lying on my desk to see if I could make a few bucks for them before I move up to Mountain View. The process turned out to be harder than I expected.

Given, the incentives of the system don’t encourage reselling of books at anywhere close to retail prices along with the variability in the condition of the books – I shouldn’t have expected this market to be anywhere close to efficient. I must’ve at least spend $200 on these books combined – yet I couldn’t get more than $30 (15%) back.
Option 1: Selling it back to the college. At UCLA, there’s a portal where you can see the value of the book should there are at all be any interest in purchasing it back (presumably to resell at a big markup the next year). Unfortunately, there weren’t looking to buy back most of the books.
School Bookstore – At UCLA –
Price: Low, Guarantee: Low, Difficulty: Low

Option 2: Selling to other students – primarily through Facebook groups. The good thing is that these are walled market places with relative price insensitivity during the first 2 weeks of every quarter. During the rest of the time the demand is essentially zero. You must be willing to wait for the first two weeks of a quarter or right before it to find a buyer (though you may still not find one). This buy is likely to pay somewhere between 50-75% the price. However it is high touch. This is the best option if you have time on your hands.
Price: High, Guarantee: Low, Difficulty: High

Option 3: Book Finders. So I knew Amazon did trade-ins and as did Chegg. However, I stumbled upon Book finder which turned out to be the best option. It quickly surveys a bunch of trade-in options at the national level and find you the highest *low* price 😛 However, if you include the price of shipping – most books don’t become worth shipping since you need to buy the packaging….
Book Finders –
Price: Low, Guarantee: Medium, Difficulty: Low
Funnily enough in college, I was trialling classes for the soon-to-form entrepreneurship minor at UCLA and took a class titled `Business Plan Development taught at the Anderson School of Business. For the class we proposed building something called Textbook Crawler. Good ‘ol days. You can view what our final presentation looked like here.

Option 4: Donate to your local library. They will usually accept most of the books you intend on donating, however I did find out that the Beverly Hills Library doesn’t accept text books. This also happened to be personally very satisfying for me.
Santa Monica Library –
Price: Zero, Guarantee: High, Difficulty: Medium

By varadh

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