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Selling Used Books - How to Sell Books Online

Updated on September 1, 2010

Selling used books is a great way to free up extra space and earn some money. There are many places to sell books online -- it’s just a matter of deciding how much work you’re willing to put in. If you live in a town with a large used book store, a great option is to bring your books in and see what they’ll buy. That way, you can save the time and hassle to ship your books. Luckily, even if you don’t have a used book store in town, there are many places to sell books online.

Before you start selling books, it’s a good idea to go through your collection and pick out the books you want to get rid of. If your goal is to pare down your book collection, it’s time to put some thought into which books you truly treasure and which ones just take up space. I suggest you only keep those books that are true favorites and you plan to read again, those that have sentimental or collector’s value, and those that contain information that is not easily found online.

If any of the books you’re getting rid of are old, stained, torn, have missing pages, or are extensively marked up, don’t try to sell them. Any used books you plan on selling should be in good condition or better. That means a generally clean appearance, no torn or missing pages, a cover in good condition, and minimal or no markings or highlights. (The exceptions to this rule are rare books, collector’s editions, or first editions. If the book is truly valuable, less than good condition might be acceptable.)

Books that are not fit to be sold can always be donated to charity shops or your local library. Ask for a receipt and you maybe be able to take a deduction when tax time rolls around.

Once you have your pile of used books that are fit to be sold, write down all their ISBN numbers. The ISBN number is usually located on the back cover, above the barcode. Most ISBNs have 10 digits. Another place to look is inside the book on the copyright page (usually one of the first pages in the book). When I sell a stack of books, I usually make a text document with all the ISBN numbers so that I can just copy and paste them when I’m checking prices at different online book buying sites.

Now it’s time to go online and decide where you want to sell your books. There are two options for selling books online. First, there are sites that let you sell directly to a buyer. You simply list a book, wait for someone to buy it, and then ship it to the buyer. Another option is to sell a many books to a single book buyer. The price per book is usually lower with these sites, but you get a lump sum and you only have to make a single trip to the Post Office.

Photo by Ian Wilson on Flickr
Photo by Ian Wilson on Flickr

Where to Sell Used Books Online

Option 1: Amazon

Amazon is pretty much THE destination for anyone looking to buy books online. Selling your books on Amazon is as easy as entering the book’s title or ISBN in the search bar, browsing to the book’s page, and checking the “More Buying Choices” box on the right side of the page. This area will give you information about the going rate of a used copy and how many used and new copies are currently being offered by other buyers.

Click on the “# used & new” link to see exactly what your competition on this title looks like. Since your book is in good or better condition, check the lowest price for a book in “Good” condition. I usually don’t list a book on Amazon if the lowest comparable price is below $3, because that’s just too much hassle for me to go through the process of listing and shipping a book. If the price is right for you, go ahead and click the “Sell Yours Here” button in the top right corner.

When it comes to choosing a price, your best bet is to undercut the current low price by jut a bit. The lowest priced book (or the lowest priced for a book in a particular condition) usually sells quickly. Write a quick description of the state of your book (be honest here and say if your book has any markings, broken spine, or other shelf wear -- or if it's in sparking, as-new, never-read condition) and choose the shipping methods you’ll offer. Confirm your listing, and you’re done!

When your book sells, you’ll get an e-mail notification from Amazon and you’re obligated to ship the book within 2 business days. Amazon deducts a commission from the final sale price, but there is no up-front listing fee.

Option 2: eBay

Like Amazon, eBay lets you sell an item directly to a buyer. The procedure is similar to listing a book on Amazon: search for the book, check the competition’s prices and condition, and if things look good, list your item. You can choose an auction if similar items have been selling at a good price, or you can list with a “Buy It Now” price so that you can control exactly how much you’ll get.

I generally prefer Amazon for listing single books, but eBay is a good bet if you’re selling a rare book or a collector’s edition. eBay is also good if you have many books in a series, or many books on a similar topic. You can list them all as a single item and save yourself some time and effort on listing and shipping. This is especially useful for books that have very little value on their own: mass market paperbacks, romance novels, etc.

Keep in mind that eBay charges both a listing fee and a percentage of the final sale price.

Option 3: Powell’s Books

Powell’s is a chain of book stores in the Portland, Oregon area, and they also sell books online via their web site. They are a used book buyer, which means that you sell your books to the store, not to a single person.

Selling used books to Powell’s is actually really simple: You tell the site which books you have and they tell you which ones they can buy, based on what they currently have in stock and how high the demand is for the title. This is where having all your ISBN numbers written down comes in really handy, because you just copy and paste them into the search field and voila, Powell’s tells you which ones they want to buy.

Powell’s is very picky with the condition of books they’ll buy -- all books have to be in good condition with NO markings or highlighting. If you send in a book in less than good condition, they won’t pay you for it (and they won’t send it back either).

They offer both store credit and a cash payout via PayPal -- you get a bit more if you take store credit. Once you accept the offer, you have to mail your books by a certain date. But they even give you a free shipping label to make it easy. Once they receive your books, they send you an e-mail confirmation and credit your payment to whichever account you chose.

Option 4: Abe Books

I just recently discovered Abe Books (which is apparently also owned by Amazon) and it’s another good place to sell multiple used books at once. They offered to buy several books that I could not sell to Powell’s and they offered a decent price as well. The process is much the same as at Powell’s: tell them which books you have, they tell you which books they want, and how much they’ll pay. Accept the offer, ship the books, get a check.

Option 5: Textbook Buybacks

There are several places online that will buy used textbooks and also regular books which are in demand in the academic world. The process is the same as with the other used book buying sites. I’ve used TextbooksRUs in the past, and was happy with them. I also recommend BigWords because you can check multiple sites at once and pick the one that offers the best price.


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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Good practical advice and useful, well written hub.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      rated up and useful, ManekiNeko. I just finished a huge garage cleaning project. Next stop, the books. They've gotta go. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Kandy 6 years ago

      I have quiet a few paperback romance novels, is there a good place to sell them online?

    • pinkydoo profile image

      pinkydoo 6 years ago from New York

      This is great advice! I have so many books hanging around that I didn't know what to do with..until now...I would never just throw them away when someone could enjoy them. I was going to donate, but hey...if I can make some money in the bargain, too..why not?

    • profile image

      Mathew 6 years ago

      I have tried a few of these method to sell books for cash, ebay would have to be most least favourite and online book buyback sites would have to be the most convenient. Altghough I will be sure to check out your other references for when I want to sell any more of my books for cash. Thanks for the great info!

    • sligobay profile image

      sligobay 7 years ago from east of the equator

      Thanks again for another useful article. It will take me weeks to compile my ISBN's for 500 hardback books but you have inpired me to clean house. Cheers.

    • profile image

      Virginia Ford 7 years ago

      I have collection of Patricia Veryan novels. In the hardbacks I have a complete collection with one novel (Nanette) missing. Some books are not in tip top condition while others are very good. I thought someone might be interested in all of the books. If not, I will sell them individually. Also, I have almost all of the paperbacks of her novels.

      If you can help, please let me know.

      Thank you.

    • profile image

      Daring Dave 7 years ago

      Good options..i miss a nice site for selling your used/second-hand books... must consider this too as an option..recently sold my 4 fiction books and got a good price in return..the process too is simple :)

    • profile image

      DavidWiston 7 years ago

      Great info, I should really pack my page with some more useful info.

      @Gypsy Willow

      You're right, it will eventually pay off to keep those rare, expensive books BUT make sure they are gathering value because if not, it's sometimes better to bite the bullet and sell up for a smaller price.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 8 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Another place to sell and buy used books online is

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      So useful! I have many books listed on Amazon and haven't sold any ( Delectable Books ( I suppose they are just too expensive, but I would rather keep them than give them away) Useful contacts Thank you very much