The Simplest Way to Sell Used Books

Buying and selling used books can be a full-time job. It can even be a full business. But if you have a pile of used books you want to get cash for without changing careers, this is the simplest way.

Selling books is like any business. You can start out simply and do it in your spare time, or you can make an enterprise out of it, have a giant warehouse, hire employees and build it into a real business. I started my development career helping build exactly this type of bookseller, with a warehouse and the whole nine yards. They are still operating today, 20 years later.

Their process essentially boiled down to sending out representatives on the road, to campus textbook buyback days. This is where students would come sell their books back at the end of a term, and the buyers would choose not to buy some of those books. In general, a student with old textbooks would probably choose not to carry heavy books back to their dorm and store them. So they essentially donate them right there, and those book pallets (gaylords, really) would fill up, and at the end of the buyback session there would be quite a few pallets of good condition textbooks and other books that these buyers on campus just didn't want.

That doesn't mean those books were worthless. It means those books were not valuable enough to pay cash for when there were so many valuable textbooks avilable to be bought that could be sold at a large profit within days to campus bookstores for the coming term. So my client bought these pallets of discarded and disorganized books, shipped them back to a giant warehouse, sorted them, scanned them, graded them, listed them, and sold them on Amazon and eBay, and eventually their own site. It was a large full-scale business with dozens of employees and a giant warehouse.

It's unlikely, for most people, that they want to start a full-time book reselling business. It is highly likely, however, that you simply have too much stuff in your life. And some of that stuff is made up of books. Those books can be sold off in a very simple manner. You don't need Amazon, you don't need eBay, and you don't have to ship those books out to individual buyers after waiting weeks for them all to sell. You can simply get an app, use your smartphone to scan the ISBNs, get a price estimate, box them up and send them all off to probably two or three book buyback companies.

Because of that convenience, the prices that you'll get for your books are not going to be the best possible. These companies need to resell your books at a profit, so the prices are going to be about half what you could expect if you listed them on Amazon or eBay. And if you waited for them to sell, and if you boxed them up and shipped them out to buyers, and if you monitored your feedback, and if you carefully remove the labels, and so on. You get the picture. These steps are arduous, and these steps take practice and cost money, and more than money they take your time. So having an instant price, with no trouble, boxing them up in a few boxes and shipping them out in exchange for some checks back is the best way. It is the simplest way for someone that doesn't do this full-time to sell their books.

The first thing you need is books. You probably need a few dozen to even make selling them back to book buyback companies worth it. They are not going to make an offer on all of your books. But for the most part, you should be able to get a little bit of money for recent, good condition books, that are still in demand.

The next thing you will need is a smartphone with an app installed. The app that you need is called BookScouter, and the BookScouter App is available for both iPhone and Android. It essentially scans the barcode from the back of the book, where the ISBN is located, and looks up that ISBN's value with a few dozen back companies. It lists those buy-back offers in the app, where you can accept offers into your cart, essentially building up shipments to send to these companies.

As you are doing this, you should keep some notes as well so that as you go through you keep track to whom you are shipping. When you look one up and you choose the best price, you don't want to be shipping a dozen books to a dozen different places. It just takes up too much time, so if there's a few cents difference between a place that you already have a shipment for, and a place that is going to require a new box and a new label and everything else, probably you want to roup them in as few shipment as you can make. Other than that caveat, essentially it comes down to scanning and choosing and scanning and choosing and building up your shipment to send back. When you're finished, you will have some books that have too low a value, so you can donate or keep them. Books aren't the worst decoration.

Once your boxes are ready, almost all of these companies will provide a free shipping label that you can print out. Pack up the books and take them to whatever shipper the comanies specify. Because book shipping is relatively slow, you should allow at least two weeks to get your check (PayPal is faster, of course). And really, that's all there is to do. You've made some space and hopefully some decent money.

The nice thing about this process is, again, you don't have to do the legwork of finding buyers, or listing things, or risking your feedback on Amazon or Ebay for books you want to get rid of. This is not for collectible books or books you have acquired for resale. This process is generally intended for someone who doesn't do this full-time, something you would do for spring cleaning, or if you ended up with a bunch of books that you just didn't want.

If you want to make a full-time income out of buying and selling books you certainly can, but this is not the process for that. This might be the beginning of a process for doing that, but you are not going to make the kind of money that you will make if you sell them on Amazon or other marketplaces.

We'll write more at another time about buying and selling books in a way that maximizes what you can sell them for. But for people who have limited time and a limited number of books, and are doing this as a one-off, using BookScouter is simply the easiest way to get rid of a bunch of books, get some money, and get on with your day.

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