Time to talk textbook buy-backs

Business | Tech

The end of term is approaching, and soon the relief of finishing exams will again be shattered by one further disappointment: bookstore buy-backs. Students often pay upwards of $500 at the beginning of each semester for textbooks and are lucky to receive half that if they sell those textbooks back to the UVic bookstore.

The B.C. government estimates that students spend $900 to $1 500 on textbooks each year. A single textbook can cost up to $200.

The 50 per cent buy-back deal at the UVic bookstore applies to textbooks new and used, but only to those required by UVic professors in upcoming semesters and only if there are not already too many copies of a given textbook in stock. Many textbooks are excluded from the university’s buy-back list due to professors requiring the most recently updated edition of a text. Textbooks that are not used at UVic, but that are on booklists at other universities across Canada, are bought back from students at 30 per cent of the original selling price.

The provincial government plans to offer free, online textbooks for 40 high-enrolment post-secondary courses as early as September 2013, but until then, students looking to get the best deal on textbooks have several options.

Direct Sales 

Selling to friends or classmates makes it easy to negotiate a fair deal, and there are textbook trade groups on Facebook (just search “UVic textbook”). Often textbooks can be sold at Amazon.ca for a better price than the bookstore for both the buyer and the seller, and sites like Craigslist and UsedVictoria can be utlized as well.


Textbook123 is a website that students can use free of charge to sell and buy textbooks online and create flyers to post on campus. Students set up an account, select the textbooks they’re selling and determine a price for each. The site is attached to the user’s Facebook account; posts about selling textbooks can be liked or shared on Facebook, and prospective buyers can send the user private messages, which may raise privacy concerns for some students. The website operates like classifieds but is tailored to textbooks that already exist in the system, which creates consistency for easy searching but does not provide an exhaustive list. Textbook123 was started by UVic alumnus Ronnie Chung  and has listings for post-secondary institutions across Canada.

Subtext, in the Student Union Building (SUB)

The Subtext bookstore in the SUB also allows students to sell their books at a price they determine. Subtext encourages students to sell their books for 75 per cent of the original price, and if a book is sold, Subtext keeps 25 per cent of the sale to cover administrative costs. This is similar to the bookstore’s deal; however, the option to price higher is available, unlike the rates at the bookstore. Subtext does not notify students when their books sell, so you have to check in to see whether they have a cheque for you or not. For students leaving Victoria after the semester ends, Subtext allows you to give someone else permission to check in on your account and will send cheques by mail as long as a self-addressed envelope is provided.

UVic Bookstore

So your expensive, nice textbook (barely touched by highlighters) isn’t on the UVic bookstore’s buy-back list? You can still sign up for BuyBack Alerts, which will notify you if the bookstore is buying your textbooks at a later date. You can also register your books with the bookstore’s classifieds system that connects students privately selling their textbooks.

The cash for your books program begins April 2 and runs until September, though the bookstore encourages students to get there as soon as possible in case it is only buying a limited number of a textbook.