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Is selling used books still a profitable business?

sell books fbaI have a news flash: the used book business for Amazon sellers is still very profitable and plentiful inventory can still be found.

How do I know? I keep casually sourcing used books and media (CDs, DVDs) and make a killer profit margin. I spend just 3 to 5 hours a month (total) in local thrift stores and on used book sites like AbeBooks.  Just some of my results are:

That's a net profit, after the cost of inventory and Amazon fees, of $51 (for a $16 investment), or over 200+% ROI.

If you're thinking "Jordan, that's not as good as it used to be", I agree for 3 reasons: 1.) Amazon's fees have increased over the years; 2.) Acquisition costs (price paid per book) are higher because thrift stores are the easiest way to get books - many thrift stores have 'caught on' and are pricing their books higher accordingly, and 3.) competition (other sellers with scanners) can be thick. 

But, those margins can't be beat. And remember I'm a casual book seller. There are guys and gals that are whole-hog into used book sourcing making a lot of money.

You can do it too. Years ago I learned about the used book business from a couple experts including Nathan Holmquist. He provided the guest column below (reprinted with his permission) about how to use Craigslist to source books. You can also grab his free "How To" ebook here (instant download) or click the image above.

 From Nathan Holmquist:

How to Find Inventory on CraigsList

On Craigslist, there are three sections that I look at for resale opportunities:

1) Books
2) Garage Sale
3) Free

Watch video

Books - Most of the time people are selling single titles or a few fiction books. However, sometimes people are selling their entire book collection. Students will often sell their textbooks here as well. I usually offer them half of what their asking for and negotiate from there.

Garage Sale - This section lists garage sales, yard sales, and moving sales. I always look at the description to see if it's worth the drive.

Free - Occasionally people will give their books away. When this happens, you will want to respond quickly.

I use a website called IFTTT.com to get email alerts whenever books become available in these Craigslist sections. Here's a video for further explanation.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • A Walia April 11, 2017, 10:10 am

    So it’s 2017 now and I’m convinced it is finally dead. I used to make around $500+ per week reselling and now barely scrape together 50 bucks. Have tried everything with the same results.

    How are you doing in 2017?

    • Jordan Malik April 11, 2017, 3:44 pm

      Great! Still tons of opportunity out there. Keep trying!

  • Victor August 27, 2016, 8:49 pm

    Hey Jordan,

    Do you use a Repricer to continuously be competent? What Repricing Tool do you use? Thanks for all the information.

    • Jordan Malik August 29, 2016, 2:46 pm

      Hi Victor. I don’t use a repricer because (my past experience) the were unreliable/glitchy. I haven’t used one in years so maybe they’ve improved. Now I reprice my items manually within the Amazon seller user interface.

  • Sue July 10, 2016, 7:59 pm

    I bought The Little Prince children’s book at an estate sale for 50 cents. Sold on eBay for $29. I would like to sell more books but don’t want to have to go the scanning route with the high monthly membership fees. I am retired and just want to supplement my income.

  • Leslie F July 10, 2016, 6:56 am

    Hi Jordan,

    I recently added books to my sourcing for Amazon FBA and came across 2 books. One that sold for $500.00 and one that sold for $50.00! My cost was .20 cents each at my thrift store. Can’t beat those margins! Thanks for all your great informative emails, you rock!

    • Jordan Malik July 11, 2016, 2:50 pm

      Leslie that’s the stuff right there! Persistence and patience pays off, nothing to do with luck! Great job, keep me posted.

  • Sean Smith July 9, 2016, 2:23 pm

    Hey Jordan,

    Great content as usual! I love your scrappiness Jordan. I’m the same way.

    I totally agree with you about selling used books on Amazon. I source online and at thrift stores and the margins can’t be beat. Also, textbook season is right around the corner so I’m spending a lot of money on inventory to capitalize on it. 50% of my sales came from books this year. This is by far one of my favorite markets for 2 reasons. I started out selling books on Amazon so it’s a strength of mine and you can’t beat the margins.

    Happy selling,

    Sean

    • Jordan Malik July 9, 2016, 2:39 pm

      Sean Smith totally agree with you 110%. So happy to hear of your success, you’re crushing it! Keep up the great work and keep me posted!

  • Kimberly July 8, 2016, 12:04 pm

    Hi Jordan! Great post. I am one of the folks selling used books using Amazon FBA, and making steady money with it. Surprisingly, the book inventory I sell is 98% FREE. With some hard work, and good use of social media opportunities it has been super easy to find more free books than my team can handle. For anyone reading this, don’t count used book selling out!? As Jordan reported, profits are there for the taking.

    • Jordan Malik July 8, 2016, 12:28 pm

      That’s the stuff Kimberly! Thanks so much for sharing!

      • Monica July 9, 2016, 12:37 am

        Nice, I always loved books! Making money with them only adds to the love! Lol.
        Love your emails Jordan!

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