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Everything You Need to Know to Sell Used Books

Last updated: July 2, 2019
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If you’ve got overloaded bookshelves and are eager to bring in some extra income, one of the best ways to make quick money is to sell used books, either online or through a more traditional avenue. Books retain value even when used, and for textbooks especially, selling them can be a great way to bring in money.

In this article we’ll guide you through everything you need to know to sell used books. We’ll give you guidance on where you can make the most money selling books online. We’ll also look at some popular textbook buyback programs, and other ways you can sell used books, online and off.

What You Need to Know About Selling Used Books

You have books and you want to sell them. Great. Before you start doing so, however, you’ll need to know a few basic things to list the book and value it properly. Let’s dive in.

How to Find the ISBN

The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a number written along with a barcode that allows websites and buyers to know exactly which book you’re selling. Many books will have similar titles, but the ISBN provides more information: the year it was printed, the volume or edition number, and more.

The ISBN is typically located in the first few pages of a book, or on a title or credits page. Look for the barcode, and you’ll find it. If it’s not there, the ISBN is sometimes located on the back cover or — very rarely — on the last page or two of a book.

Describing a Book’s Condition

When buyers are looking at old books, they want an accurate description of the state the book is in, and they’ve devised a shorthand to easily convey a book’s condition. If a book is still in its original packaging and has never been opened, it can be labeled “New.”

Otherwise, most buyers and sellers now use the Amazon condition labels. They are: “Used – Like New,” “Used – Very Good,” “Used – Good,” and “Used – Acceptable.” You can read deeper descriptions of what each condition means on the Amazon website.

Picking the Right Way to Sell

You’ve got your ISBN and you’ve accurately listed the condition of the book. Now it comes time to figure out how you want to sell it. We’ll dive deeper into all of these momentarily, but this should act as a good primer to decide where you want to sell your used books.

If you prize convenience, especially if you’re selling textbooks, the textbook buyback programs listed below are great. All you do is enter the ISBN, and they do the rest — they’ll give you price quotes from a few places, send you a label to print out, and cover the shipping costs. There’s little to no hassle involved, and if you want to quickly make money, it’s a great way to do so.

What these programs offer in convenience, however, they sometimes lack in offering the most money. To get the best price for a used book, it’s often smarter to sell and ship directly yourself, either through Amazon or a more traditional outlet.

Textbook buyback programs will take a cut to do the work for you. If you want to maximize earnings, you have to do the work — create the listing, deal with the customer, and pack and ship the book yourself.

Textbook Buyback Programs

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Again, if you want to sell textbooks, there is no easier process for getting quick money than using these buyback programs. These sites allow you to quickly run a price comparison, get multiple buyback price quotes, pick a buyer, and get a shipping label, all in a matter of minutes. Simply enter your ISBN and they take care of the rest. Below are some programs we like.

BookScouter

BookScouter.com lets you compare offers from over 35 vendors, who can make bids on popular textbooks. They pay for shipping, and promise quick pay for your books. They also have a $500 book scholarship, which is awarded every quarter to an eligible university student who uses the site.

BookFinder

BookFinder is one of the original sites offering textbook buyback services and it’s still one of the best. It’s been around since 1997, and like the other sites listed here, allows you to ship for free. BookFinder isn’t limited to textbooks, either — you are free to sell novels, cookbooks, or any other type of book through the service.

CampusBooks

CampusBooks is another popular textbook buyback program that provides quotes from dozens of different buyback sites. They offer payment in cash, check, PayPal, or store credit.

TextbookRush

TextbookRush offers free shipping labels on all sales, and also offers payment in cash, PayPal, or store credit. One differentiator with TextbookRush is that they promise all quotes are valid for a full seven days, so you can lock in a quote, then try some other sites to see if you can get any better offers.

Selling Books on Amazon

Amazon got its start in books and remains committed to being the largest online marketplace for buying and selling books — even though they’ve moved on to a lot more since then.

Amazon allows booksellers to create a seller’s page and immediately start listing books to their global customer base. With Amazon, you can update your seller account, post new listings, or provide customer service, all through a smartphone app on iPhone or Android.

Amazon offers secure payment, and listing on their site allows you to accept major credit cards and Amazon gift cards. They also offer inventory stocking and shipping services through their Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program.

Interested in learning more? Read our comprehensive guide to selling books on Amazon.

Other Places to Sell Used Books

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We’ve covered textbook buyback programs, as well as the behemoth in the digital book industry, Amazon. Let’s look at some other places you can sell used books.

AbeBooks

AbeBooks is a global online marketplace that specializes in books, art, and collectibles. You get to set your own shipping rates and handling time, and they promise to connect you with a global customer base through their six international platforms.

Used Bookstores and Thrift Stores

Some used bookstores offer to buy used books from their customers. If your local bookstore offers this service, make sure to reach out ahead of time before you lug over a box of books — they often have designated times when book buyers will be available to offer quotes for books.

Likewise, thrift stores will often offer some money for used books. The prices usually aren’t great, but you can avoid shipping and handling, and support a local business by selling the books to a thrift store.

Craigslist

Craigslist is a go-to local marketplace for just about anything you could need. But it can also be a great way to get some cash back if you sell used books, especially in college towns where students are looking to save.

Garage Sales

This is the classic way to unload old books (and clothes and video games for that matter). Empty your stuff out on your front lawn, slap some price tags on things, then revel in the extra money — and a decluttered house.

Starting a Business Buying and Selling Books

Most people who sell used books online are simply offloading books they at one point purchased for themselves, either for pleasure reading or as textbooks for a class. However, there are people who have started businesses acquiring books and selling them for a profit.

This strategy requires care and research. Finding bulk books isn’t hard online. Websites like Thriftbooks allow people to buy used books in bulk, and eBay will regularly have auctions offering large collections of books for a set price. Similarly, local bookstores and public libraries often have “free” boxes to unload old inventory or offer half-price books.

The idea behind these businesses is to acquire a lot of books, sell them online, and earn a profit. But there’s a lot to consider before you dive into a business like this.

Books are heavy and take up space, so you’ll need room for your inventory. If the books don’t sell quickly, they may take up space for a long time. Many books given away for free or sold in bulk probably won’t have much resale value — if they did, people wouldn’t be parting with them. That’s before factoring in the time spent researching prices, listing each book online, processing orders, shipping and handling, etc.

Can you make money buying and selling used books online? Sure. But it’s not an easy business. This website is a nice primer if you want to get started. It discusses the challenges of selling books online as a business.

Make Extra Money Selling Used Books

Selling secondhand books can be a great way to bring in extra cash. After reading this article, you’re equipped to price a book fairly, and have several different options for where to sell it. Whether you’re unloading old textbooks or eager to launch the next great bookselling business, you have the information you need to make it happen.

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