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Sell Your Used Textbooks and Old Books Online

Published 11/17/09 (Modified 3/9/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

Selling used books online is one of the easiest ways to significantly declutter your home and earn some extra money in the process. Although it might seem like the intellectual thing to do - to have volumes of books and textbooks lining your book shelves to offer up that desirable professional-looking scholarly facade, but chances are, after you've read those books once you're very unlikely to ever read the vast majority of them ever again. Thus in the name of decluttering and staying organized, why not try to downsize your personal library periodically, and make some extra money while you're at it by selling off some of your used books and textbooks?

As a part time personal finance blogger, book publishers and book authors frequently send me free personal finance books to read and review. After blogging about making money and a whole slew of financial topics for several years now, in this span of time I've probably received well over 30-50 books about money (the vast majority of them parroting and repeating the same material frankly). If I did not periodically sell them online or donate them away to friends and readers of this blog, the incredibly large pile of books would probably have winded up clogging a large corner of my house, gathering dust and taking up space.

College and graduate students in particular have the greatest to gain from not delaying in their efforts to sell off their old and used textbooks online. School textbooks are by their very nature profitable exchanges for the book authors and publishers who issue new editions every few years and force all current book owners to buy the new versions to stay current. Thus, limited in terms of value by short multi year lifespans, school text books are only as current and up to date as the next year's release date. That is why I always strongly recommend that students sell their books quickly and convert them back to cash form as soon as the school semester or school year is over, lest they delay and wind up in ultimate possession of yesterday's edition.

Where To Sell Your Used Books To Get the Best Price and Most Money Back

I started selling new and used books online back in 2000 when websites like eBay.com, Amazon.com, and Half.com were just gaining prominence. While I sold my fair share of unwanted books to local used bookstores, thrift stores, and even pawn shops for cash, I focused primarily on online selling due to the higher prices I could fetch over the Internet. Selling back used textbooks has always been a great way to recoup some of the expensive costs of expensive textbooks, but unfortunately, college and university bookstores these days continue to pay students the worst prices for book buybacks. In most cases, college bookstores usually only offer half or less of the original purchase price for buybacks so that they can in turn sell the used titles back to other students for huge markup profits. Today, there are many places over the Internet where you can sell your used books for much better returns - each with its own host of pros and cons.

1) eBay (Auctions) - If you're a regular consumer looking to buy a new or used book for cheap, eBay will probably be your best bet as auction deals abound there and final sale prices are incredibly low. However, if you're a seller of used books or textbooks, the general public perception that eBay offers super low prices definitely works against your favor. But due to eBay's incredibly large customer base and superb ease of use, it's an online book selling resource you simply can't ignore. eBay is one of the very quickest, easiest, and simplest ways to sell used books online. Oftentimes if you're listing an auction for a used book, you can simply utilize eBay's book template setup feature, punch in the book's ISBN number, and have an effectively designed eBay auction ready to go in just a moment's time.

Even if you don't always get the best prices for your books with eBay, it's almost a solid guarantee that they will sell (albeit at eBay market determined prices). If you're looking to sell an obscure, rare, or valuable book, or perhaps you're looking to capture high traffic volume for an auction involving a collection of books at the same time - eBay might be your best bet due to its ability to offer up maximum public exposure. But because eBay auction consumers have been conditioned and accustomed to seek out and demand almost unreasonably low prices for their bids for some time now, you're unlikely to make a tremendous amount of money with eBay book auctions if you're a seller. Ebay's continuously increasing listing fees and rising commission charges have definitely taken a serious toll on seller profit potential in recent years.

2) Craiglist.org (Classified Ads) - Craigslist is a very popular online classified ad listing website and is also truly the wild, wild west of market place transactions. The greatest appeal of Craigslist for online book sellers and buyers is that there are no commissions, advertisement listing fees, or special mandatory shipping charges required. Pretty much anything goes on Craigslist - with all transactional terms and conditions negotiated and worked out between sellers and buyers themselves. If you have used books for sale and do not wish to be constrained by the auction rules or regulated limitations of policed sites like eBay or Amazon, you might want to try out Craigslist. Prices vary wildly however - sometimes they offer prices higher than eBay listings while other times they're lower. But in terms of saving time and effort, if you're looking to get rid of your used textbooks or old book collections all at once in large parcels, Craigslist is ideal.

Here's a suggestion for Craigslist sellers - if you're looking to sell a large bundle of books at once, try putting multiple books together into a single collection and posting the listing for sale on Craigslist. If potential buyers express interest, try throwing in additional books to spicen up the pot in their favor if you're willing to do so. This type of book selling strategy works incredibly well for smaller and lower priced books that don't sell as well individually.

3) Book Buyback and Textbook Rental Websites - The biggest problem with utilizing do-it-yourself (DIY) type sites like eBay, Amazon, or Craigslist to personally list and sell your used books is the time and effort involved to list and market every one of the books for sale. Trying to keep shipping costs down and save money on the cost of packaging envelopes isn't easy to do if you're not an adept micro-tasker. One viable alternative to the do it yourself approach is to solicit the services of an online book buying website that will pay you a one time bounty for all of your available and aggregate used books in one fell swoop. Usually after you've provided the book buyback website the names and ISBN numbers of all of the books you have for sale, the site provides you pre-paid postage labels for you to ship the books to them via the postal service. With book buyback services, there is no need for you to manage auctions, handle customer service inquiries, or follow up regarding timely payment. Once the folks at the book buying firm have received your books and reviewed their condition, they usually issue payment directly to you in the way of a check, PayPal payment, or even a direct deposit into your checking account in some cases.

The biggest downside with these online book buyback websites is the incredibly low price they generally pay for used books and textbooks. Because they pretty much do all of the work for you, these companies generally pay only small fractions of the original retail price for these books. Rarely do their offers ever match or exceed the prices that used book sellers can fetch on their own via eBay, Amazon, or even Craigslist. While I don't necessarily vouch or recommend any one particular site for its quality or reliability - here are a few book buyback and book rental websites I've come across that you might want to follow up on - Chegg.com, eCampus.com,�� BookByte.com, Cash4Books.net, Barnes & Noble, TextbooksNow.com, Textbooks.com, BooksValue.com, WeBuyTextbooks.com, BooksValue, TextbooksRUs, and CollegeBooksDirect. Let me know if there are any other sites worth mentioning, worth reviewing in detail, or even worth criticizing.

4) Amazon.com Used Books and Textbooks (Recommended For Most Sellers)

Compared to all of the other online ways of selling used textbooks and old books, I prefer listing books for sale on Amazon.com because it is much more intuitive to use than other alternatives. Signing up for an Amazon seller's account is straightforward and listing your used books for sale is easy. You will be asked to describe the condition of your book, set your desired fixed price, and denote your available shipping options. Amazon.com ultimately reimburses sellers for their shipping costs but charges a $0.99 fee plus an additional fee based on a certain percentage of the final list price. Here are a few Amazon quick links for sellers that want to get started:

Over the years, I've enjoyed a lot more regular success and have earned more profit with Amazon than say, eBay or Craigslist. Quite possibly because Amazon.com started out as a book store and many people still see and trust Amazon primarily as an authoritative source for buying books at a reasonable price, it seems visitors to the site are more willing to pay a slightly higher price premium than at other websites. But perhaps the greatest benefit of using Amazon to sell books is the ability to take advantage of the natural flow of visitors coming to the site and looking to buy a brand new book. Because used book listings are displayed alongside the prices for new book titles, you may be able to siphon off new book seekers and convert them into buyers of used, lower priced versions. Rather than go to Amazon.com and shell out $25 for a new book, you may be able to successfully lure prospective buyers into going for your cheaper $15 used version instead.

Obscure, rare, and collectible books tend to fetch higher prices via an auction or free-for-all classified ad listing than you may be able to get by selling the title via a fixed price listing on Amazon. If you prefer to sell a whole selection of titles simultaneously as a pallet or collection, you might be better off using eBay or Craigslist. Non textbooks or expired textbook editions tend to sell much faster on eBay and Craigslist where aggressive deal seekers and bargain hunters abound. But if you're selling either a popularly used and update-to-date school textbook, or trying to sell an otherwise recognizable bestselling title, Amazon will probably be your best bet. So long as your textbook has not been discontinued due to the release of a newer edition, you should not have any trouble selling your new condition book on Amazon somewhat close to what you paid for it. Standardized books such as school textbooks and popular bestsellers almost always perform better on Amazon.com listings than on other alternative sites.

If you're thinking about selling used books on Amazon, here are a few important tips and pointers I've learned and picked up in recent years:

  1. Always list your used books for sale at prices lower than your closest competitor.
  2. Always track your used book listing periodically to ensure that it's being priced at the lowest it can be.
  3. If your competitors attempt to low ball their prices and undercut your title listing, instead of getting into a pointless price war, try matching prices tit for tat rather than beating them instead.
  4. List your used book's condition accurately. Even if your used textbook is really in "like new" condition, you might want to list it as "very good" instead. You don't want future potential buyer complaints to cause your Amazon seller rating to suffer.
  5. Keep your shipping prices low by utilizing free shipping boxes that you naturally come across, or buy them from deep discounters like Walmart, Target, or even your local supermarket. One great way to save a lot of money on packaging and shipping supplies is to buy them through eBay. For example, check out the following prices for eBay bubble wrap mailers, and eBay bubble envelopes.
  6. Always ship utilizing the cheapest method possible - For used books and textbooks, the cheapest way to ship is usually through the postal service's media mail option. However, with certain smaller books, it might very well be cheaper to go with First Class Mail - just ask the post office to ship using the cheapest way possible.

Regardless of which method you use to sell your used textbooks and unwanted books, selling back books (textbooks in particular) is simply a great way to recoup original purchase costs. But bear in mind, unless you are somehow a very large power seller with access to special shipping discounts and access to very cheap shipping supplies, you are unlikely to get rich or make a lot of money online through selling used books alone as a business form. Like those money making paid online surveys you always see, they may be otherwise legitimate ways of earning some extra cash back, but it's doubtful you'll ever become a millionaire in the process. It's theoretically possible, but highly unlikely.

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