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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Best Time to Buy and Sell College Textbooks


It's that time of year again, when students across the country get ready to spend serious money on college textbooks. But to get the best deals - on both buying books for the upcoming semester and selling your old texts - it may be worth paying closer attention to when you shop and sell.

A recent analysis by Extrabux, a cash-rebate Web site, found that the best time for students to buy and sell textbooks was from Aug. 20 to Aug. 26, as well as Jan. 7 through Jan. 13. And the worst time to do it was from Nov. 19 to 25th and April 9 through the 15 (which seems to coincide with spring break).

The reason is simple. It all traces back to the basics of supply and demand. The best time to buy textbooks, the analysis found, is when demand is high. “We found that the prices of many products sold online will decrease as the number of shoppers looking for those products increases,” said Jeff Nobbs, co-founder of Extrabu x. “Online retailers/sellers want their prices to be as low as possible when there are the most consumers in the market looking for their products.”

He said the site looked at historical search trends for textbooks as well as price data through camelcamelcamel.com, which tracks price fluctuations from Amazon.com retailers.

The site also found that the best time to sell is when demand is high and supply is low.  “This means that students will get the most money for their books if they sell them when there are a lot more people buying rather than selling textbooks,” he said. In fact, students can get up to 20 percent more by selling during the right months, namely July, August and January. (The site discovered the pattern by analyzing when people search to buy and sell books through Google Trends, and then juxtaposing that with average textbook buyback prices throughout the year from BookScouter.com.)

Besides timing, you also need to know where to look for the best deals. In a previous Bucks post, we surveyed the different ways to reduce your costs - whether through finding free offerings online, using e-books or perusing the many Web sites that rent or sell used books, as well as sites that act as search engines and compare prices across several providers.

And in subsequent posts, we took an even closer look at comparison Web sites and some of our readers' favorite places to shop. (We also highlighted other options, including some sites created by recent graduates who were fed up with the book-buying process themselves. But it appears that some of them are now defunct).

Have you discovered new ways to reduce your textbook bill? Or have you found any new places to shop online?