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Making a Business Out of Used Books

Although there are many excellent business models for entrepreneurs who are trying to create successful online businesses, one of the best is buying and selling used books. The used book business requires little startup capital, can be done by practically anyone and can generate a very large amount of revenue and profit when done properly. Here’s what you should know about this business model and how it works.

The Basics of the Online Bookselling Business

The business of selling used books online is actually a fairly simple one. Used books can be found for sale virtually everywhere, often for rather low prices. By buying these used books locally and listing them on large online platforms, you can sell them to people who are willing to pay a larger sum for the exact books you have. As a result, it is far from uncommon for used booksellers to buy a book for $1 or less, then sell it online for $15 or more. It is this large potential profit margin that makes used book sales so lucrative as a business model.

Where to Find Used Books at Low Prices

Needless to say, the first step in starting a successful used book business is learning to source the books you’ll be selling. In order to maximize your profits and ensure the success of your business, it’s important to find used books at the lowest possible prices. Fortunately, there are many places where you’ll be able to find used books for $1 or less. One of the best options for sourcing inexpensive books is to frequent local garage and estate sales. When people decide to sell books at these sales, they’ll often price them as low as 25 cents apiece, leaving plenty of room for you to turn a profit. Likewise, thrift and secondhand stores frequently have shelves of books marked at very low prices.

The best place to find great deals on used books for your business, though, is likely in your local library. In order to make room for new acquisitions, libraries often have to sell off old books. If you have libraries of any size in your area, there’s a good chance that you’ll find several shelves of books for sale at extremely low prices in them at any given time. Many libraries also have annual or semiannual sales during which they mark their books down to even lower prices in an effort to get rid of them. A sale at a reasonably large library can give you access to dozens or even hundreds of profitable books, often for only a few cents apiece.

Where Can You Sell Your Books?

Once you have found a few good sources of used books, you also need to find a place to sell them. The immediate go-to of most online booksellers is Amazon, where you can list your books on a gigantic marketplace. Selling on Amazon has several advantages, especially for sellers who are just starting out. Because of the size of its marketplace, Amazon has huge numbers of buyers, making it more likely that your books will sell quickly. Amazon also has a service known as FBA, or fulfillment by Amazon. With FBA, you can send your books to an Amazon warehouse, after which Amazon’s own staff will take care of packing and shipping them to buyers when they sell.

Although Amazon will likely be one of the major marketplaces you use as an online bookseller, you should also take advantage of other platforms to maximize your own profits. In the cases of some specialty books, Amazon won’t be the platform where you’ll get the best price. In the case of rare, antique or collectible books, for example, you’re more likely to get a high price through an eBay listing than on Amazon. Textbooks are another type of specialty book for which Amazon isn’t always the best sales platform. If you find textbooks that you want to sell, a platform like BooksRun that buys textbooks directly is an easy way to turn them over for a quick profit. On Amazon, by contrast, your textbooks could sit for months or even years before they sell.

As you go, you’ll learn what to look for in terms of profitable books. With revenue coming in from books sales, you’ll also be free to scale up your buying and potentially grow your used book business. With time, selling used books online can become a highly profitable business. Many used booksellers are able to make $50,000 a year or more, while some top sellers who have successfully scaled their businesses make much more than that.