Textbooks too heavy for students’ wallets to carry

Buying used is the only immediate option for students.

We always seem to forget how much money we actually pay for books as exams, papers and projects fly by during the semester. This is true because when winter break rolls around, we are so pleasantly surprised by the “book buyback” myth.

In our distorted memories of the previous semester, a magical figure waits for us patiently at the bookstore with cash in hand. It absolutely needs textbooks and pays handsomely for them. It’s really the closest thing you can get to free money.

As Temple students, we know that this never happens. The ghostly book buyer is replaced by a tired, overworked student and the cash vanishes with the crushing line, “We can’t accept this book.”

Why not? It just doesn’t make sense to have a program like this when so many textbooks are not accepted.

Usually this rejection occurs because the textbook has been reprinted thus rendering older editions sold at the beginning of the semester completely useless.

Sadly, neither the bookstore nor faculty has a hand in the matter.

“What often happens in my own courses is that when a new edition is released, I assign the newest edition because that’s often the only one available to order directly from the publisher,” said John Fiore, professor of computer science at Temple. “I encourage students to find used copies of older editions.”

This is some good advice because the books do not change very much from edition to edition. I recently attempted to sell back an expensive book and it was rejected in order to make room for the text’s new and improved version.

According to the publisher’s Web site, the new version of the book has exactly the same chapters as my version.

“Textbook publishing is a business,” Fiore said. “Financial reasons may play a part in the publication frequency of many texts.”

While it may seem obvious that new editions equal more profits, there are some things that departments could do to get around the frequent changes.

For example, if professors decided to order double the amount of every other edition of textbooks instead of the current amount of all new editions, then more used books would float around for longer periods of time.

Over multiple years, this would give students more opportunities to buy cheaper used books and cash in at the end of each semester.

Until then, do some research on textbook publishers’ Web sites before going all in on the buyback lottery. You won’t need any luck to save a lot of money with an older edition.

Brendan McNamara can be reached at bmac1017@temple.edu.


  1. I’ve noticed that if I can get a list of what books I need like a week before classes start that I can just simply search online for all of my textbooks, getting the best possible deal I can. I’ve been using this method for the last several semesters and it works out great. I send an email to my professors asking them what books we are going to be using for the semester and then use a site called Bigwords.com that is an online textbook search engine that finds the best discounts and coupons form manufactures and it factors in the best shipping time and rates available. Its great too cause at the end of the semester they have a guaranteed buy back rate that you learn about when you first order you book. Its great no more being rejected at the book stores when you try and sell them back when your done with them.

  2. I am the general manager for the bookstores on the various Temple Campuses. I am writing in reply to commentary written by Mr MacNamara.

    There are many factors which impact the bookstore’s ability to buyback a textbook at the end of a semester. First, the process is driven by the bookstore’s receiving a textbook order from a faculty member. If we don’t have a faculty order the book can’t be bought back. The outreach to the faculty begins in early October for the Spring semester.

    Once we know what text is being used for a course, we start the process. If a text is currently being used and will be used again in the upcoming semester, the bookstore will pay the student $.50 on the dollar originally paid for the text. (Both new and used books may be sold back). For example, the bookstore will pay $50 for a text with an orginal price of $100 if it is being used on the campus next semester. Note, the bookstore will only purchase enough texts to cover the enrollment for the class in the upcoming semester.

    The bookstore is also able to buyback books not being used on the Temple campus in the next semester. The payout to the student is reduced because the bookstore must incur the cost of sending the books to the location where it is being used.

    At the end of each of the past 3 semesters, the bookstore has payed out to students more than $400,000 for their used textbooks.

    While the bookstore’s ability to buyback a textbook is impacted if a publisher changes an edition, the lack of a faculty order is the biggest reason a book can not be bought back. If students want to have an impact on their ability to get cash for their used books, they should contact their professors and ask them to inform the bookstore of their textbook needs for the coming semester.

    The bookstore also continues to look for ways to make the buyback easier and more convenient. We have instituted remote buyback locations to reduce the in store lines by bring the buyback to residence halls and other locations around campus. We have extended the Main store hours to provide more opportunity to access buyback.

    We will continue to try new and different ways to buyback as many books as possible and have as many used books on the shelves each semester.

  3. Recently I’ve been using bigwords.com and purchasing all of my textbooks through there. It’s so much easier than fighting all of the long lines at the bookstores. Plus it searches for the cheapest possible books out there. And you get them cheap, I mean cheap! This semester alone i saved over $300 on my books. I don’t know why more people don’t use online sites like this. It’s so easy!

  4. Buying textbooks online is a great way to find cheap textbook prices but be careful of the shipping method. Media Mail is cheap but can take up to 4 weeks if the the textbook is coming cross country!

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