Is It Against the Law to Buy and Sell Back College Books?

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As US News reports the cost of textbook prices tripling over the past two decades, it is easy to see why many students want to sell their used books to either get some of their money back or even make a profit. However, many people get worried and start to wonder if it’s against the law to buy and sell back college books.

The quick, basic answer to this question is no, because textbooks are not regulated by governmental agencies. In fact, many students utilize this opportunity to get the books they need while they are waiting for some in the mail or if they are debating on whether to drop a class or not. In these cases, it is no different than returning a shirt because it is the wrong size, and is completely legal. If, however, you plan on buying and selling textbooks for personal profit, be sure to check your revised statutes within your state law, in the tade section. For example, in the state of Nevada, the buyig and selling back of textbooks is completely legal and this practice is not mentioned as prohibited.

Why Do It?

As someone who may not typically do this, it may seem odd to buy and sell back textbooks. However, this is a practice utilized by many students in college, for several different reasons. The most common reason people do this is to buy a textbook for a class they are not sure they are going to drop or not. It would make sense to sell the textbook back or get a refund on the book. Another common reason students do this is because they need a book to use while they are waiting for their book to come in the mail if they bought it from another place. The last reason students buy and sell back textbooks is to make money. Some students will use their remaining financial aid to buy textbooks and sell them back to the bookstore for cash. According to NACS, used textbooks are usually priced at 75% of their retail price. One can see why reselling books can be appealing to students.The students who buy used books benefit significantly from this market. As shown by Student PIRGs, an average new textbook will cost a student $102.44 , while the average used textbook will cost around $64.80. This can be a big savings for any student.

Moral Issues

Some people may see moral issues with buying and selling back textbooks. The logic behind this idea is whenever a student buys a used textbook, they are taking away from the author and publisher of the book, as these people do not get any part in the resale. Also, if a person is buying a used book, they are most likely not going to buy the new version. According to Dr. Koch, $4.9 billion dollars were spent on textbooks in 2006. About 39% of this was spent on used textbooks.

The market for books is generally split into two groups of people: ones who buy new textbooks and ones who buy used textbooks. These people usually keep to their practices. In other words, although students might try reselling their books to other students, in most cases it does not take away from the market of new book buyers, as they are still going to buy new books. As for the used textbook buyers, you would just be providing another resource for them to purchase their used books from, which leaves the publisher no worse or better off than beforehand.

Can Financial Aid Be Affected?

In most cases with financial aid, the money goes to pay for school and the remainder of the money left over gets sent to you in the form of a check from the university. This money can be spent on books or other things recipient may want, and it will not affect financial aid. This is the case at University of California, Riverside, and many other universities. If a person’s scholarship covers books, it is usually more in depth and you might need to report what books you need so they can be paid for. With these types of financial aid, you will usually need to buy your textbooks from the bookstore, and they can be new or used. This is the case with Isothermal Community College in North Carolina, and many other colleges. It still will not affect financial aid to sell back books, as they usually let you sell back your books at the end of the semester if you choose. This would also be acceptable for returned books from dropped classes. It is wise, however, to check return policies for some schools may require book returns within one week of purchase. Financial aid providers are generally concerned with a student’s GPA, as seen at the university of Wyoming. Although this is the case for almost every type of financial aid, every provider is different, and it is important to check with your financial aid advisors just to be on the safe side.

Things to Keep In Mind

If you are returning textbooks because you no longer need them, have no fear, for it is not illegal and will not affect your financial aid. However, financial aid is a very delicate thing that can be taken away for a variety of reasons. If you plan to buy and sell back textbooks for profit, be advised. Although there is no specific prohibition of this with most financial aid, it is important to check with your financial aid advisors to be sure it won’t be revoked.


Nevada Revised Statues

Reading Between the Lines of Used Book Sales

Student PRIGs

US News

Fast Web

University of Wyoming

Isothermal Community College

California Riverside