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How to Keep, Store, and Sell College Textbooks

At the end of my undergrad, I wasn’t sure what to do with all my college stuff. I was getting a new apartment and a new job, and I felt really stuck picking which college memories to hold on to, and which useless, expensive bricks I could sell to the explosives department to blow up – no joke. 

Luckily, I worked at my university bookstore, so I had a lot more experience navigating this market than most. So, here’s some advice to help you resolve your textbook woes. 

How to Decide if You’re Renting, Keeping, or Selling Textbooks 

Every semester, I had questions I asked before I rented or purchased a book. Renting textbooks was a great option when I didn’t expect to use the book beyond the semester, or if I didn’t have the funds to shell out the full cost of the book – but it has many disadvantages. Colleges are notorious for surprise fees, and any damage beyond the regular wear and tear could have resulted in me buying a book I never intended to purchase. Plus, some colleges make us return them before we take our finals – which is beyond inconvenient!  

Regardless, these questions can helped me pick which books remain, and which books to turn into cash. 

  • Did I actually use this textbook? 
  • Was this a textbook I used for a class in my major? 
  • Was it entertaining? 
  • Will I use this as a reference? 

If I ended up answering yes to any of these questions, then I’d consider holding on to it. Textbooks serve as an excellent way to refresh your memory when you forget small things about your college coursework – like how to use the limit definition of a derivative. Or to remember what Judith Butler was really saying in her book “Gender Trouble.” 

Textbook Storage Ideas 

Now that we’ve Marie Kondo’d the books that bring us joy, it’s time to find a place to fit them. First, find a clear shelf to store the books. (On a budget or without available shelf space? A DIY crate bookshelf is always a good option.) Now that you’ve got a shelf, it’s time to talk about how to best store textbooks to protect against wear and tear. They’re tricky because they’re all different sizes and although they can stack really nicely together, they get so heavy. Keep the heavy-lifting lighter by grouping them into small boxes and labeling them. I group by genre, then by time period – but you can group them whichever way works best for you. 

How to Keep Textbooks in Good Condition 

Textbook buyers will evaluate for a number of criteria, the usable condition of the book being a major factor. Extensive damage, like missing pages and broken bindings, will fetch close to nothing – leaving you with a book you can’t use and no cash to show for it. 

If they don’t turn a book away due to damage, small things like coffee stains, dog-eared page corners, or highlighting and writing in the margins can add up – leaving us with less than we hoped for. Taking good care of your textbooks is the best way to ensure you get a good price.  

If you can’t remember all that, just chant: “Books are special. Books are sacred. Books are made of paper, so keep them dry (and away from an open flame).” 

How Do You Store Old Textbooks 

I’ve found that how I read books can affect their value depreciation greatly. To read a book with care, lay them on flat surfaces with the pages flat. Use a paper bookmark to hold your place, and acid free sticky notes to prevent discoloration of the ink or paper. 

When you are not studying for that class, how you store the books is important. Keep textbooks on a shelf, upright, and fully pushed to the back. Make sure the shelf isn’t getting a lot of sunlight either, which could discolor the outer pages. Don’t let the books sit in a bag over the weekend either, any folds, moisture, or dents can go unnoticed at first and worsen over time. 

Storing books anywhere that gets really hot, like a car or near a fireplace, can melt the adhesive on the bindings. Keep the wear and tear minimized by storing textbooks somewhere cool. Personally, I don’t study over the summer, so storing the books in a climate controlled storage unit to keep them looking fresh for the fall was a great option. 

Textbook Storage Containers 

For books or any paper goods, I recommend using plastic containers to store them neatly. Using clear bins will help you see what books are where, and the airtight lid can lock out any moisture that can wrinkle the pages. If you can, store them snug against each other and upright, but horizontal is fine. Avoid storing books at an angle at all costs – the sheer force of the other books’ weights on the binding will make it wear down quicker over time. 

Where to Sell Old College Textbooks 

If I answered “no” to every question, then I knew it’s time for these tomes to go. There is an entire industry focused on reselling books, and with digital textbooks continuing to eat into the supply of physical copies, used textbooks are gaining in value. Most university bookstores will have some version of a buyback program – when looking for more convenience than cash, this is a great option. They’ll buy back on the spot, so students can leave with empty hands and some money for the next semester. The only downside is that these buyback programs only operate for a short amount of time, so if you miss your window, you might have to wait a while. 

At times when I was hoping to get more competitive compensation, there are some great ways to see how your copy ranks against the market. My personal favorite, Book Scouter, will compare online books by ISBN number, so you can find the best price for Nivaldo Tro’s “Chemistry: A Molecular Approach.” 

Best Way to Sell Old College Textbooks 

The hardest truth I learned as a freshman was that my books were not worth anything compared to what I spent on them. Sometimes you can get lucky, like the one year my bookstore ran out of the used copies of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” and I just so happened to take that class last semester. Someone who lived down the hall from my dorm room ended up buying the book for nearly full price, just so they’d be able to do the homework in time – but playing the textbook stock market is risky. If you play the supply and demand card right, you can sometimes (almost) break even. My most recommended method for selling textbooks would be to go try your school’s buyback program or one of the many reliable used textbook sites. 

Rotating Library with a Storage Closet 

When I can’t bare to part ways with my favorite textbooks and I need a place to store them long-term, a rotating library helps me hold on without turning my living space into a warehouse. As I purchase, read, and re-read, I can cycle books in and out with a convenient visit to my own personal library. But not everyone has a spare room or closet for this, especially college students. If you’re a bookworm like me and dream of a rotating library closet, consider a small self storage closet for your student storage so you can easily access your books at any time without taking up space in your home or apartment.  

Self storage closets can come as small as a 5×5 (or smaller depending on the storage facility), perfect for putting in a shelf or two for books while still having room to walk in and browse your personal library. There might even be room for a chair so you can have a reading nook. If you go the self storage closet route, we suggest climate controlled units to keep the pages of your books in top condition. The best part: with 24-hour access, study sessions or late-night reads can run as late as you need, just request access from your facility’s office.  

Renting Self Storage for Textbooks 

Whether selling, keeping, or not sure what you’ll do with your textbooks, we can take them off your hands till you do know. Our storage units come in a variety of sizes – and with affordable rates and month-to-month leasing, it’s easy to pack up life until next semester. Find the unit that’s right for you with our Self Storage Calculator, and when you’re ready, rent online today.