Selling Books Online: Is It Worth It?

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booksToday’s guest post is written by Megan, another loyal Pocket Your Dollars reader.  She loves to get a bargain when she buys books, textbooks, and DVDs, but has learned a few things about making money selling them online. Personally, I am excited about what she shares because I can see a stack of books in the corner that we have desired to sell online, but weren’t quite sure where to start.  I have no excuse to sell them now.  Thanks Megan!

About two years ago, my family started to prepare for moving to our current home.  In the process of moving, we found that we had moved the same books and DVDs from place to place.  Not only are the books heavy and numerous, but they gathered dust and were only read one time (if that).  As a graduate student, I bought all of my textbooks online, but I had never resold my books online.  One night, I went through all of my old textbooks and determined that I could easily make a couple hundred dollars if I sold them online.  Over the last two years, I would estimate that my family has made well over $1,000 from selling textbooks, other books, and DVDs on the internet.

There are two main sites that you can post your books on – Half.com and Amazon.com.  They both take a commission based on the sale price of your book.  Both sites are free for listings and shipping is reimbursed at a fixed rate (sometimes you lose money on shipping, other times you make money on shipping).  If you decide to post your books at both sites, be sure you are immediately removing a sold book from the website that didn’t sell that book (or you might get bad ratings if you have to cancel an order).  Also, be sure to accurately describe your item and condition.

As for shipping, I usually watch for deals at office supply stores and buy in bulk to save.  I keep large envelopes and tissue paper or bubble wrap on supply to send the items I sell.  When you ship, be sure to mail at the media mail rate (unless the buyer upgrades to expedited shipping).

Payment is made directly into your bank account twice a month (this information is required when you sign up to sell items).

I would recommend pricing your books at the lowest rate that way the books will sell quicker.  Some of you may look into this option and see that your books will only sell for $.75.  Although this may not seem like a lot, it adds up fast.  Plus, you are recycling and decluttering.

As school approaches, another site to check out is www.cheapesttextbooks.com to search for your textbooks for college and graduate school.  This website will pull from Amazon.com and Half.com (and a few other retailers) to determine the cheapest textbook price.  The website has links which directly route you to Amazon or Half with no fee. 

Carrie here again: I also think these kinds of small entrepreneurial endeavors can be good for kids. Older kids can help get ads set up, read inquiries from potential buyers, help package the books, see the payment deposited into the account, etc. How else can you have kids help?

Your turn: What have you learned as you’ve sold things online that would help someone else get started?

About Carrie Rocha

I am passionate about helping people live within their means so they can get out and stay out of debt. I live in Minneapolis, MN with my husband and two little girls.

Comments

  1. I have recently started selling old books online with Amazon. It can be a slow process but has earned about $9 a month. Not much, but better than them just sitting around in boxes.

  2. I've been selling books on Half.com since 1999 and on Amazon since 2003. Each has pros and cons. Amazon charges more fees (a listing fee and a "closing fee" which are taken from your profit once your item sells, as well as the regular 15% commission Amazon gets. Half only charges the 15% commission on your selling price, once your item sells, but they don't reimburse as highly towards your postage). I price according to the selection available and according to how much fees I know I will have taken out, but I try to be competitively priced. I have my ups and downs with selling. Sometimes I sell a lot and it is going gangbusters, sometimes it is slow. I look at thrift stores or church rummages to keep my inventory interesting and revolving. I have about 400 books on Half and about 175 on Amazon.

    My high experience was I sold a medical terminology book that I found at a thrift store for $3, for $60 on Amazon (once they took all the fees out they got about $15 of that, but still a good profit). It sold like 3 days after I listed it, and I was so pleased. I have also had some good experiences selling out of print childrens' books from the 19 50s-70s.

    I keep my packaging expenses low by reusing clean bubble mailers I may get in the mail (putting a label over the previous label) or using regular manila envelopes but wrapping the book in plastic and/or newspaper for extra protection. I also buy the bubble mailers sometimes when they are 3/$1 or .39 at Walgreens

    One thing I like about Amazon Marketplace and Half.com, you just state your price and that is that unless you decide to go into your inventory listing and change the price higher or lower. There is no bidding wars like you have on eBay where you constantly are looking at your bids. That is too much hassle for my liking.

    It is worth trying if you are willing to put the time into it, but it can also be discouraging at times. If you are just trying to get rid of books that are already sitting on your shelf, that is fine too. Like Lisa said, better than them just sitting there on your shelf or in a box.

  3. Thanks for the information about selling books online. I have been wanting to do this. I have sold a few things at Half Price Books and the return is pretty low. I recently learned that Half Price Books will buy magazines. They prefer the issues to be a month or two old. I receive a lot of free subscriptions, so I read them quickly and resell. Typical payments have been $1.50 for 3 and $4.00 for 17. Not a lot of money, but these were free to start with and would have ended up being recycled. Our family recently started a "State Fair Fund" with our profits.

  4. What a cool thing about Half Price Books taking magazines now! Thanks for sharing about that. You are pretty smart, Tami, to take something that is free to you, and be able to make a profit, even just a small one. Like you say, they would have just been recycled. And it's smart starting a little State Fair Fund. Good for you!

    I encourage you to give book selling online a try…the return is much better than what you get from Half Price Books. It's a little more work, but worth it, I think. There are tutorials on both Half.com and Amazon.com if you need more info than what's on here.

  5. Just enter the ISBN (bar code) from the back of each book at http://www.cash4books.net and they will tell you if they will buy it right away. After you are done going through your stack of books, you print out a shipping lable. Just tape the label to the outside of your envelop or box of books and send it off. Free shipping! In a few weeks you receive a check in the mail from cash4books. They won't take every book you have but it was fun to hunt for the ones they would take that we had laying around the house. Try all types of books. We got the most money for a book my daughter had with sheet music in it of disney songs.

  6. I use bookbyte.com to sell my husband's text books and old coding books from work. Just like cash4books.net; you enter the IBN, print label, mail and wait for your money to show up in your paypal account (usually 10 -14 days).

  7. I just started to use paperbackswap.com to get some books that I have been wanting instead of buying them used on ebay. I had to list 10 books that I wanted to get rid of and then I got 2 credits towards ordering 2 books. Then every time a member receives one of your books, you get another credit. In the last 2 weeks I have had to ship 2 of my books to other members, and I am currently waiting for my first book to arrive in the mail. I just have to pay for the shipping to send my books off.

  8. Christine says:

    I read this post and just started using Half.com. I don't paid a lot for DVD's but I get them out of my house. Also if your sending one DVD it usually costs less to ship First Class. Your buyer will be happier and leave you good feedback.

  9. Julie Koski says:

    I have been using paperbackswap for several years and really like it. My sister is a huge reader. She buys ( or chooses) and reads the books and passes them on to me. I read them and post them and mail them out on pbs. It's a great deal for both of us.

  10. A GREAT site to sell your books on is Deal Oz. I compared many sites separately when trying to sell a dozen books when I stumbled across this site. What is absolutely awesome about this site is you enter the book's ISBN and you get a quote from over a handful of other book buy back websites so you can choose the site that offers you the most money. I HIGHLY recommend this site because it does all the comparing for you!

    I found selling my books so much easier through this site rather than ebay.com, amazon.com or half.com because I didn't have to pick a starting price, didn't have to create a post and didn't have to pay shipping. The site buying your book will let you print of a pre-paid postage label. I also made a little more money on several books than I would've made on any bidding website. Hope this info helps someone!

    • Thanks, Amber! I might have to try this one out. I always use Amazon, but this seems a lot easier.

    • One more thing: when you do this, do you usually just go with the highest buyback price or do you list it on their marketplace?

      • Laura, I just choose the highest book buy back price. You get a fair dollar amount back and all you have to do is print the postage label, package the books safely in a box or bubble letter mailer and either request a pick-up from UPS, FedEx or the post office OR (what I preferred to do) was drop it of at whatever shipping company the book buyer was using (to make sure it got safely retrieved)

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