We didn't have things like eBay and Craigslist in those days, or Amazon marketplace, or I would certainly have used them to sell my old textbooks myself, and buy others directly from the students themselves. Still, I often find that the cost of postage adds considerably to the price, sometimes making it more economical to buy new instead.
What would be a really good idea would be a sort of local Craigslist in each university. Students could advertise their old textbooks - and also stuff like laptops, mobile phones, bicycles, furniture, all the things that students need. And they could search for textbooks and stuff they needed, and then arrange to meet the seller in the pub to complete the transaction, thus saving on postage. That would be brilliant.
It turns out it's already been done, in the USA at any rate. Chegg.com is an online marketplace for students, arranged by campus, so students can buy and sell textbooks and stuff they need. I love the internet - isn't this sort of thing fabulous? It saves students money, it saves the planet, it's a win-win arrangement.
But it gets even better. Chegg.com came up with TextBookFlix.com, a textbook rental service for students. This sort of scheme can have a great benefit on the environment because paper production is very damaging. The chemicals used to bleach and treat the paper are serious pollutants, including dioxins, some of the most toxic substances known. I find this very depressing as I have a heavy book-buying habit myself.
There's a service called Eco-Libris, where you can plant a tree for every book you buy. Trees can't remove dioxins from the waterways, and the wood cut down to make books ought to come from managed forests rather than ancient forests, so tree-planting for books strikes me as more of a token than a genuine way to correct the harm done in paper manufacture. But hey, trees are nice. I'm not going to complain if someone wants to plant a bunch of trees. When you sign up to the service you get sent stickers to stick on your books saying "One tree planted for this book".
Just to wrap the whole thing up neatly, TextBookFlix has recently formed a partnership with Eco-Libris so that one tree is planted for every textbook rented. Isn't that nice?