How to Sell Used Books

Sell used books online and in community marketplaces.
Sell used books online and in community marketplaces. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

If you are considering selling used books as either a hobby or as a professional trader, there are more options available in today's market than at anytime before. In addition to traditional direct selling opportunities available through festivals and fairs, used booksellers have a number of online avenues for selling used books. Bookselling markets now include online auctions and flat rate trading, as well as buyback book dealers for both used general market books and textbooks.

Things You'll Need

  • Books
  • Website
  • Seller accounts
  • Vendor tent
  • Tables and chairs

Online Outlets

Sell used general market books to online book buyers. Websites such as provide a platform for selling used books by entering their ISBNs into a book search field to check whether they are among those listed. If a book is in demand, the website will generate an offer price. Shipping is free and you are paid for books once the book is received.

Trade in unwanted textbooks for cash. Websites such as BooksValue allow textbook sellers to search by ISBN numbers to determine if a specific textbook generates an offer price. Some general market books may also be deemed textbooks. For example, "The Color of Water," by James McBride, is a memoir that is included in the curriculum of some college courses. Its 2006 10th edition, with an original retail price of $14, generated a BooksValue offer of $2.82 -- about 20 percent of its original value.

Establish an online auction and trading account. EBay is among the most well known auction sites for selling merchandise. Each auction is generally set for a definite term. An initial nominal posting fee applies that is scaled based on the value of the starting auction price and a percentage fee is deducted if the auction sells. Terms will vary among websites. For a monthly fee, high volume sellers may consider establishing an eBay shop for flat-rate pricing for books that stay live until they sell.

Partner with established online booksellers. AbeBooks and Alibris have partnership programs with used booksellers; both online booksellers allow simultaneous listings on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you are establishing a volume-based selling strategy, consider using a software program as a listing and upload tool.

Set up an online used bookstore. There are a number of website hosting companies that provide website templates that can be customized. Online payment platforms such as PayPal have fairly simple merchant tools for setting up PayPal and credit card payment options on a website.

Traditional Outlets

Set up a brick-and-mortar used bookstore. This is the most capital-intensive option for selling used books. In addition to the large investment in inventory, additional costs might include retail leasing, utilities, staffing, equipment and supplies. Conduct an intense evaluation of market demand in the prospective community when evaluating this as a business option.

Trade used books directly with consumers by participating in bazaars, flea markets, festivals and fairs. Check local newspapers for community and cultural events with opportunities to set up a booth for a fee. If you plan to develop an active used book-selling trade, you may consider investing in a professional vendor's tent, folding merchant tables and chairs.

Contact your local used bookstore. Some used bookstore still buy directly from the public. Call first to find out if the bookstore has a specific day and time set for reviewing books. Let the bookstore know if you have a large quantity of books. You may need an appointment.

Tips & Warnings

  • Partner with online booksellers and auction and trading websites to drive traffic to a new website.
  • Thoroughly read terms and conditions before committing to online transactions.

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