how to sell your books online

photo: sally schneider

Like everyone we know, we have a growing pile of books that we’ve been wanting to sell, to cut down on clutter and make a few bucks in the process. We recently discovered BookScouter, a website that tells you how much your used books are worth to a variety of online retailers.

The best part is that they pay for shipping (book rate) and provide labels, making selling books fairly simple—you just have to pack them up and drop them off when you are making a trip to the post office. We decided to test the process out to see if it’s really that easy. If you’re looking to sell, here’s the deal, start to finish:

1. Search for your books: When you enter a book’s ISBN number into Bookscouter, it shows you price results from 20 used book retailers. (ISBN numbers can be found on the back of the book, right above the bar code). Not every retailer will have an interest in the book, but among the sites that seem most likely to offer a price are BookJingle, SellBackYourBook, TextbooksRus, and Powell’s. Bookscouter also collects ratings and feedback about all of the retailers.

We found most of the offers to be fairly low, with the highest prices going to the newer books. Our highest offer was $8.02 for Dish: 813 Colorful, Wonderful Dinner Plates, which retails at Amazon for $23.10 (originally $35.00). Recent softcovers average about $3.00. We have some beautiful hardcover art books in pristine shape that no one wanted at all.

Each company has slightly different rules about accepting books with writing/underlining or bent covers, but generally all of the following are unacceptable: water damage, missing and torn pages and covers, staining to pages, and—oddly enough—“books with an odor,” like smoky or musty smells.

2. Sell and ship: Once you’ve decided to sell, all of the retailers that we looked into provided shipping labels and free shipping IF you’re sending $8.00 worth of books. Some will accept $8.00 worth or 5 or more books.

3. Collect your money: Most of the retailers let you choose whether you want to be paid via PayPal or by check, with some exception. Powell’s, for instance, only offers payment via PayPal, and Amazon.com BuyBack only gives amazon.com credit.

How worth the effort this is probably depends on how many books you can sell to the same retailer. We found we could sell our 11 books for about $42 across multiple different retailers. If we sold them all to one retailer, like BookJingle, so we’d only have to pack up one carton, we’d end up with around $36. Our 11 books weighed about 18 pounds, so we’re talking $2 a pound or $3.27 per book. Not a fortune, but on the other hand, it’s $36 that we didn’t have before.

Related posts: hacking ikea: throw away the book!
open art books as decoration + artwork
mimimalist book bar/paperweight (d-i-y or buy)
stacked-book display cases and other great ideas via scott newkirk
sighting: shelves made of stacked books (books as bricks)

2 Responses to how to sell your books online

  1. Sara 01.24.2012 at 6:49pm #

    i was just thinking of of how I might sell my books online! terrific! thank you.

  2. Meredith Thomas 01.25.2012 at 6:53am #

    What are the titles of your books?! I am wondering if I am alone in wanting to know what you have in the way of art books. Maybe readers can purchase directly from you?!

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