How to Make Money Selling Used Books Online

Updated on May 22, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I write about employment issues, ways to earn money and how to get best value when spending it.

Vintage Pelican paperbacks can fetch a good price if in pristine condition.
Vintage Pelican paperbacks can fetch a good price if in pristine condition. | Source

The Keys Steps to Successful Book-Selling

  • Be professional.
  • Describe the goods properly in your ads.
  • Price the books competitively.
  • Make sure your books are in the best condition they can be.
  • Mail them promptly once they are sold.

Does Selling Old Books Online Make Money?

Many books are read once (or not at all) and then given to a thrift shop, sold at auction or discarded by being left on public transport. You may be able to sell them online for a profit.

Making money by selling books online is not an easy option. It takes hard work and persistence. You must be able to stay self-motivated despite days or weeks of zero sales. To make this type of business pay you need specialist knowledge. Getting the right books to sell and matching them to waiting customers is the key to success.

You can use a middleman to sell, or you could set up your own website. The video below describes how little you can expect to get for second-hand books from established online resellers. The websites reviewed in it are,,, and

Can You Sell Unwanted Books Online?

Second Hand or Rare and Collectable

There are two main categories of second-hand books. The first and most common is a book which has been owned by someone else (yourself or another person) and is now being resold at a percentage of the original cover price. This category includes student textbooks, popular fiction, or ordinary books which are being sold off following the death of their original owner.

The second and smaller category is rare and collectable books. This is a specialist market in which the book’s value is determined not just by its condition and rarity, but also by investment potential. The values in this sector of the second-hand book market can be highly volatile.

Selling Books on Amazon, eBay, and AbeBooks

Amazon. AbeBooks and eBay are popular websites for selling second-hand and used books. Anyone can list books for sale on them and name their asking price. If you want to make regular sales, don't be greedy; price realistically.

The video below shows how using a book pricing app together with a portable bluetooth scanner make finding and pricing stock much easier than it used to be. This scanner and phone app combo has saved me hours of time.

Where to Find Books to Sell Online

Thrift Stores, Charity Shops, Yard Sales, and House Clearance

If you find you enjoy selling books online and make a profit then you'll need to find more stock. Thrift stores and charity shops sell cheap second-hand books. However the internet makes achievable prices visible to everyone and so it's becoming more difficult to find hidden gems in these stores.

Just because a book is old, doesn't make it valuable. The opposite can also be true. Some newly published books are sought after because small print runs cannot keep up with demand. If you specialize in a particular subject area, you'll learn what has value, and what does not. Persistence and knowledge are the keys to success in this business, although luck also plays a part.

Auctions and house clearances can be a good source of large book collections. Relatives of the deceased may want to clear the house with as little hassle as possible. If you have transport you may even get paid by executors to take hundreds of books away for dumping, and be able to retrieve a couple of gems from the dross.

Book illustrations may add value if they are detailed engravings or colored prints.
Book illustrations may add value if they are detailed engravings or colored prints. | Source

Describe Your Books Clearly

The way you list your books for sale is key to making this a viable home business. Describe the book in as much detail as you can. If a website allows, post lots of photos. These should show the front, back, and spine of the book, as well as any illustrations. If there's any damage, include a photo of this as well.

Include the date of publication, full title and author, as well as the illustrator (if relevant). If it's a modern book it will also have an ISBN number which is a unique identifier relating to the publishing format and date of publication.

The book should be presented in as clean a condition as possible. If there are any marks, these should be noted in the description. It's not a good idea to try and remove them with modern chemicals, as this can damage the paper or binding. You can quickly reduce a valuable book to scrap paper by over-zealous cleaning.

Reasonable Sale Prices Attract Buyers

Ordinary Books
Rare and Collectable Books
Research Sold Prices
Internet Book Sites
Specialist Auctions
Clean and no pages missing
Depends on rarity
Edition and Publisher
Textbooks should be as recent as possible
1st editions may be collectable
Shipping and postage costs
State the shipping costs in advert
Use trackable delivery

Calculate Shipping and Postage Costs

Books are heavy. Most buyers expect to have their books delivered to them, and so you should consider shipping costs when you price your wares. Make sure the book's sale price is sufficient to cover your outgoings, and make a profit for you. Some websites (e.g. eBay) allow you to determine what (if anything) you want to charge for delivery on top of the sale price. Consider charging different amounts so that you can offer your customer a choice between standard or tracked delivery.

For rare and collectable books, use a traceable delivery method in case the package gets lost in transit. Remember to include the cost of your bubble mailer and Scotch tape in the shipping costs. Depending on the size of the book, these can be as much as the postal charge itself. It's worth using good quality packing materials; these will ensure that your buyer receives their book(s) undamaged by rough handling in transit. Happy customers mean repeat purchases.

Don't assume a book is valuable just because it is old.
Don't assume a book is valuable just because it is old. | Source

How Do You Know if a Book Has Significant Monetary Value?

Rare and antique books are a specialist market within the general antiques and collectables trade. Their price is determined not just by a book’s condition but also by how other investment markets are doing. There are always investors with cash to splash even in a recession. When interest rates are low, cash moves into other investment classes. The value of antiques and other “collectables” including books may rise as a result.

If you have any books you think may have special value, I recommend you take photos of the covers and a few of the inside pages of the books. Then after phoning first, email the pictures to some auction houses or specialist book traders. Other traders can be generous with their knowledge and time. Even if you don’t have a hidden gem on your bookshelf, you may learn a little more about collectable books.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Submit a Comment
  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    6 years ago from USA

    This is a terrific topic and well-covered. I have way too many books and need to unload some. Voted up+++ and pinning.

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 

    6 years ago from SW England

    Useful hub here, Beth. I often buy books online but usually new ones. I rarely get rid of books as I don't like to do so; I've always chosen my books well, often read before I buy my own copy and so have copies of books I like to re-read often.

    If I have any books I don't wish to keep, then I take them to the charity shop. I don't think I'd ever sell online but this is a clear description of how to do it for those who want to. Up, useful & interesting. Ann

  • mgeorge1050 profile image


    6 years ago from West Georgia

    Thanks for all the great tips. I have had some limited success selling used books online. I browse thrift stores everywhere I go looking for books. I will be using some of the information you have presented here to hopefully increase sales.

  • mecheshier profile image


    6 years ago

    What a fabulous Hub! I love books. You have some great ideas and tips. However, I am not so sure if it would be profitable for me. I seem to collect books and have a hard time getting rid of them. lol... Thanks for the great read. Voted up

  • Beth Eaglescliffe profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Eaglescliffe 

    6 years ago from UK

    It's wonderful to have too many books rather than too few. A library of exciting literature to dip into whenever you want. An online bookstore may be a good idea ... but wait until hubby has gone first!

  • Marisa Wright profile image

    Kate Swanson 

    6 years ago from Sydney

    My husband collects books about the English language. He has thousands - far more than he will ever be able to read! I keep threatening that if he goes before I do, I'm going to open a bookstore with them. Maybe I should make that an online bookstore!


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)