I love books. Ever since I could hold a Little Golden book, I’ve enjoyed the texture, pages and feel of books. Going to the library was an exercise in delight — all those authors and their stories, calling out to be explored! I loved hiding away in the University of Michigan’s Law Library, reading by their green glass lamps…but I’m just as fond of rummaging in our local library, sorting through the videos and ogling the latest bestseller. (Jeffrey Archer, you sly one.)
And I’ve found a way to make it pay! I buy books to read, enjoy – and resell.
Bucks For Books
That may not sound like much – but it’s surprisingly profitable. My best score, so far, has been Soaring Wings, a 1939 biography of Amelia Earhart written by her husband, George Palmer Putnam. A first edition, too, purchased for $2.00 at our Castle Rock library’s used book room – and recently sold for $52 and change. But I’ve sold plenty of titles for less – books bought for a dime, a quarter or a few dollars, at most – $3, $5 or more.
DVDs And CDs Too!
It isn’t just books. DVDs and CDs, especially more esoteric titles (think BBC or PBS), go for nice amounts. African American Lives, the Henry Louis Gates look at famous people and their DNA origins, went for $10. (I got it for a buck.) Add these sales up, and you can rack up a tidy pile of profit over time.
The secret: keep your eyes open, purchase and sale prices down and do your research.
How To Resell Books
I start at our library’s used book room – it’s produced a number of goodies, including a lavish garden book ($2, sold for $20), the works of Wagner ($4, up for sale at $24.95), and a children’s book on Samurai (50 cents, currently $10.95). Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace memoir ($2) just sold for $10.95, and I’m waiting for a guidebook on Marble, CO to go ($1, around $6.50).
Next it’s on to the thrift shop, with everything from kids’ books to World War II histories – all at 25 cents to $2 each. A volume of statesman letters ($1) was going for $23 and more on Abebooks – I stupidly missed out on that one, by going home first to look it up. The book was gone when I returned.
Garage sales, estate sales, hospital thrift shops, even Craigslist are all are good places to look for books. But how do you know if a book will sell?
Knowing If Books Will Sell
The hard part: you don’t. That expose may be rare and out of print or it may be selling for a penny online. Learn from my earlier mistake – grab it if you’re not sure. If you’re paying small prices for books to begin with, you can afford to be wrong once in a while. Sharpen your odds by sticking largely to books you already know about, on subjects you enjoy.
Do a random search now and then through Amazon, Ebay, Half.com and Abebooks – all, especially Amazon and Abebooks, will give you a better idea of the going rate for various titles.
Listing Books For Sale
Got your books? Now it’s time to list them for sale. You’ll get good prices on Ebay, but the auction has a limited time period, 3-10 days for a regular auction, or up to a month for ‘Buy It Now.’ I’ve had better success on Amazon, where the fees may be higher – but I can list it indefinitely. (The Ketcham book, for example, took more than a year to sell.) There’s no fee until the item sells, and Amazon gives a generous amount for shipping – something that balances their hefty percentage.
If you sell on Ebay or elsewhere, you’ll need a PayPal account for accepting payment. (I also keep a separate Propay account for accepting credit cards.) Like the others, Amazon requires a link to a standard bank account, for transferring or depositing money.