Guide to Selling Used Books Online

sell used books online
Online business idea - sell used books online

Selling used books online can be a great way to earn a little extra cash. Old recipe books, used college books and other type of used books are always on demand. This guide will introduce the basic concepts of selling books online including:

  1. Where to find used books for bargain prices
  2. How to select books worth money
  3. Where to list your books
  4. How to organize the basic logistics of sorting, storing, and packing

It is my hope that this guide will create a solid foundation of knowledge to help you get started.

Finding Used Book

The first thing you will need to do is understand where to find used books for prices that are lower than what they sell for online. By far the best source is used book sales run by various charities. Most used book sales are run by Friends of the Library organizations who use these sales raise money for their local library. These sales will often have great quality books and superb prices. It is not uncommon for these types of sales to sell books for $1-3. There are some sites online that that users find used book sales in their area.

Another great source of books is local thrift shops. Thrift stores will often carry books donated by patrons, and sometimes you can make some great finds. These types of places are great to visit often as they will frequently restock their shelves.Google maps is a great way to find thrift shops in your area.

How to Select Books Worth Money

Now I know you might be asking yourself: so now that I know where to find the books, how do I identify what is worth money? This can be accomplished using technology like a cell phone or scanner. There are several different types of software you can buy that will scan the bar codes of books and tell you the prices online (scoutpaland media scouter are popular options). For example, let’s say you scan a book and find out it’s worth $17 on Amazon and you can buy the book for $2 at the sale. Well now you just made a nice profit. This basic strategy of finding book sales, scanning books, and buying those worth more online is the central business model behind selling used books online.

Where to List your Books

The most common place beginners will use to list their books is Amazon has a very easy and intuitive system for listing your books on their market place. It also boasts the largest online market for books. The ease of use of the system combine with the high volume make it ideal to start. Often users will migrate to other sites after they have mastered the fundamentals of selling on Amazon. Ebay is often a second stop for sellers, especially if you start selling bundle/combination packages like kids’ books or romance novels.

Sorting, Storing, and Packaging Used Books

There are three basic pieces of logistics you will need to think about before you can sell your first book. First, you will need to build a system for sorting your books and listing them online. Most sites use a standard grading system (like new, excellent, good, etc) to grade the quality of books. It’s often a good idea to sort your books by these conditions to make bulk listing easier.

Once you sort your books it’s time to list them online. has a forum containing great information for beginners on how to get this started. Once books are listed you will also need to create a storing system that will let you find the book once it sells.

Buying a few book shelves and creating a basic SKU system is often the best approach. My first SKU system involved giving each shelf a letter and each row a number. For example a book with the SKU B-4 would be on the 4th row in shelf B. There are many ways to create a SKU, but this approach is a simple starter method.

The last thing you will need is packing material. Bubble mailers are often the best packing material for books so I would recommend contacting some bubble mailer resellers to see if you can buy bulk. If you are serious about selling books online you will never want to pay retail for packing material, it’s way too expensive.


Hopefully this guide has provided some foundational knowledge for the basic steps in starting your own online book business. It is by no means comprehensive, but should suffice in getting you started down the path to selling online. Thanks for reading and good luck with your book venture!

About the author: Jessica was a book seller for 7 years and co-owns