For students looking to get the best deal possible on textbooks this year, we have one important lesson to impart: Timing is everything. Well, that and this nugget from Economics 101: It’s all about supply and demand. When it comes to textbooks, 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. The best time to buy textbooks is also when demand is high.
Buying Textbooks 101
As we showed in our post about the best days of the week to shop online, the demand for a product on a given day can significantly affect its price that day. That is, the more online shoppers that search for a product in a given time period, the cheaper that product tends to become during that time period.
Based on historical trends, students this fall semester will search most for textbooks during the fourth week in August, which means textbook prices will be lowest that week of August 20th. To prove this relationship between price and demand, we took a snapshot of a few textbook price history graphs from camelcamelcamel.com:
Selling Textbooks 101
So it’s time to get rid of old textbooks—now what? Or more importantly—when? Students can sell their textbooks for as much as 20% more by selling during the right months. When exactly is that time? Using data from Google Trends, we’ve created a graph that shows when the textbook market is most lucrative.
When we compare the difference between the number of searches for “used textbooks” versus the number for “sell textbooks,” the peak times to sell become apparent.
Based on that trusty theory of supply and demand, it’s clear that the best months to sell textbooks are July, August and January. And, as the chart shows, the worst months to sell are April, late November and early December.
If you need more convincing, take a look at the next chart. To confirm that the theory of supply and demand does in fact influence online textbook buyback prices, we overlaid the demand (minus) supply graph with a graph of the average textbook buyback price throughout the year from BookScouter.com.
The supply and demand of used textbooks significantly affect the buyback price. In the course of a couple months, the fluctuating number of sellers and buyers in the market can affect the buyback price by as much as 20%—that translates to about $12 per book! Even non-math majors can rejoice in those numbers. The best time to sell this year will be the week of August 20th.
Now that we’ve completed today’s lesson on textbook economics, we’d like to hear what you have to say. When do you prefer to buy and sell textbooks? Is buying used and reselling at the right time too much of a hassle, or is it worth the savings?