How can I get rid of some of my books?
May 4, 2012 7:18 PM   Subscribe

I have a library of over 500 books that I'd like to sell, online probably. How do I go about it?

I have a large number of books that are collecting dust. They're turning into a burden. They are a mix of fiction, philosophy and a few training manuals. Nothing crazy - no first editions or collectors items. They are all in very good to excellent condition. They do not have to go immediately.

I'd like to sell them and get the most I can. What's the best way? Is there a market for used books? Where's the best place to list them? Should I sell them individually? Is it a pain in the ass to do that?

My only experience with buying/selling anything used online is I've bought a couple of used books off Amazon and I've been a satisfied customer. Thanks.
posted by phaedon to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite has an app that allows you to scan barcodes using your smartphone and upload them for sale that way.
posted by woodvine at 7:27 PM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pick out 10 of these books at random and check out the market for them on You'll probably find many of them for sale at pretty low prices. Which means there is not a ready market for them. Even if you set up your own book selling account you'd spend years peddling them and net a few dollars apiece. You are better off donating them to a library that's planning a book sale and taking a tax deduction.
posted by beagle at 7:31 PM on May 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

Worst case, and I'm not sure if this is violating policy or not but I'll give it a shot since you seem to have posted the question in good faith and I'm attempting to put forth a solution in the same vein, you could type up a list for use on craigslist and/or post a link to it in your profile here.

I know I'm a sucker for looking into person2person book sales.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:49 PM on May 4, 2012

I recently used a site called to sell a bunch of used books. You put in an ISBN, and it searches something like 40 book-buying sites to see how much various vendors would be willing to buy your book for. Warning though - most of those prices were pretty low. I've had pretty decent luck selling on Amazon if you're willing to be patient.
posted by emily37 at 7:56 PM on May 4, 2012

Before I moved a few years ago, I used Delicious Library on my Mac to scan the barcodes from my books. From there I was able to bounce that list against Amazon to find their selling price. In my case, about 80% of the books were worth less than a dollar each. I didn't want to deal with the hassle of getting 99¢ and have deal with shipping so I decide to just give them away to Goodwill ( I actually gave all the books work less than $5 to Goodwill) The handful of books for more than $10 sold easily. The ones in the middle $5-10 took time to unload and a few of them I ended up keeping.
posted by birdherder at 7:56 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are a couple of ways you can sell them:
1) Get an Amazon/Alibris/Abebooks account and sell them yourself.
2) Sell them in bulk lots on eBay, based on topic/age/binding/etc. Shipping isn't too bad domestically because you can ship large lots as media mail.
3) Sell them to bookseller like Powell's or Amazon (or whatever large used bookseller you have in your area). For large lots they'll pay for shipping or if local, come to you. Estate sellers might also be a good route in this case.
4) Run a book sale yourself on a nice summer weekend like a garage sale, charging a flat fee per book. Advertising on book forums or craigslist or something would help.

Personally I would do a combination of 3 and 4. Powell's and their ilk will let you submit a list of what you have and then tell you what they want and what they will pay. Then you can sell whatever is left at your homebrew book sale. Anything left probably isn't worth more than a couple pennies and you can give them away.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:42 PM on May 4, 2012

Is it a pain in the ass to do that?

Yes. Also, as noted, it is the exceedingly rare book that goes for more than a dollar or two. People eke out livings by moving mass quantities, doing it enough so that their listing/shipping processes are very streamlined, and grifting a bit of profit off the shipping charge. Not being able to streamline your listings, and stock at a level that will mean a boatload of getting out the shipping materials, wrapping, heading to the PO for one order = very low per-hour wage.

Training manuals...recent? It sounds like it might be worth digging around to see if you have any of the few books out there that are high-priced new and not of sufficiently wide interest to be popular, meaning demand outstrips supply in the discounted-2nd-hand market for them, and flogging those on-line...

Otherwise, you might ask around (FB/Twitter/etc are great for this) to find out what used bookstore in your area is pleasant and fair to deal with, and see what they will offer. It will be a pretty paltry sum, but it will also be easy and quick. If you are going to keep reading and like the shop, might as well see if they will give you a slightly better deal for taking it in credit -- nice to have an excuse to book-browse and get a "free" book whenever you return, I find.
posted by kmennie at 3:58 AM on May 5, 2012

Is there a market for used books?

Yeah, sure. Depends on the specific books, though, right? First step: Pull a sample of a dozen or so and check to see what they're going for at sites like; the lowest prices there are what you'll be competing against. But be warned: fiction in particular drops off very quickly in value after a year's gone by. Scifi and mysteries tend to hold their value a bit better, but we're still mostly talking a dollar or three plus shipping after mildly significant work. As kmennie points out, some folks eke out a profit by doing large volumes, but your best bet for most of what you have will probably be to take it to a used bookstore. I know, I help manage one. We offer 10% of the cover price on paperback fiction we can use, which works out to ~$1 - $1.50 per book. That can add up over a half dozen boxes, particularly if you'd rather have the money in hand than list it online and wait for someone to choose your copy.

For what it's worth, phaedon, I'm getting ready to head into work right now, and expect to deal with people bringing lots of 500+ books for most of the next 8 hours. It's not a huge amount for us, and, depending on how much is philosophy (great) and popfiction like Jodi Picoult and James Patterson (notsogreat), you could come away with enough to make it worth your while to get rid of them all at once. Either way, grabbing a box of what you think is your best stuff and taking it to a used bookstore or two for a quote will put you in a better position to evaluate the time/energy/payoff factors involved with the various options.
posted by mediareport at 6:35 AM on May 5, 2012

Not sure if this is an option in your area, but near me there are a number of bookstores that sell (and, therefore, purchase) used books. That's probably the best way to get rid of them with the least hassle, while still getting money for them. That said, it probably won't be a lot of money, and I know you said time is not an issue, but I figured I'd throw this out there anyway. Trying to sell the bulk of them off individually really might not be worth the trouble.
posted by divisjm at 6:45 AM on May 5, 2012

Do you have a Half Price Books near you? You should be able to unload all of your books there. Be forewarned, though, that you'll probably get less than a dollar per book. In fact, I'd be surprised if you got more than a dollar for any of them. If you're just looking to offload the books, though, this is one way to do it.
posted by pecanpies at 7:10 AM on May 5, 2012

The thing about the used-bookstore option is that they tend to be picky about what they buy. I took seven or eight boxes of books to one here in Hadley (a very good store, Troubadour Books, if you're ever in the area), and he just took a box's worth. I got a good price for them, but I still have half a dozen boxes, which I'll probably donate to a library sale.
posted by languagehat at 8:14 AM on May 5, 2012

the lowest prices there are what you'll be competing against

This is not the case if the books you have are, as you say, in excellent condition. If time is not a factor, then selling via Amazon is a pretty good choice. At the moment, I have over 400 items listed with them. I sell about one item a month. I view it as a pleasurable leisure activity, and the trip to the post office is free exercise. Those items that don't sell after a while, I cull and donate to the library. The highest priced book I've sold was $40. Most of them I've listed for $10-$20. All of my books are in excellent, like new condition though.
posted by storybored at 11:30 AM on May 5, 2012

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