Selling Books on Amazon

A fellow student asked about buying textbooks then selling them on Amazon. Here’s what I had to say in response

I buy all the required reading at the very beginning of the semester from Amazon. I figure that I can sell it back on Amazon if I want to keep it and only lose a little bit. That strategy has worked out well… low stress and generally inexpensive. Only a few times have I been stuck with a book that has a new edition, thus devaluing my book greatly. I figure that if I am trying to save $100 by not getting a book, and that is getting in the way of a $70,000/year job, my priorities are in the wrong place!

To sell on Amazon: I generally match the lowest price and it usually sells within 2 weeks. I ship USPS “Media Mail” which is usually about $3-4 instead of $8-15 for Priority Mail. Pay for shipping online, wrap the package, then walk into the post office, CUT IN LINE (you’re allowed!), set the package on the counter, make eye contact with the counter rep and say “my package is all set. Thanks.”

After I’ve bought the book, I find a PDF version as a personal backup. I leave this on my computer, this has been very useful for me as I study during my long commute. There is some question as to the legality of having the paper book and a PDF backup but this isn’t a settled matter.

I’ve had very good luck selling books at the end of the semester. I don’t always sell them for a good price but usually I do. I think I’ve bought and sold 15 textbooks in the last 3 years. I might buy a used, “almost new” condition book for $80 when the new price is $110 and then sell the book for $60-90. If there is a new version of the textbook, I might sell my edition for $50. Note that I occasionally sell them for more than I bought them :-)

I’ve also bought older textbooks that were great. For example, I bought a computer programming textbook and a college math textbook for $5 and they were perfectly up-to-date, helpful and accurate. They wouldn’t have helped me for a class because it would be hard to follow along when the teacher says “turn to page 20” and my page 20 is different from other books. (yes, the book publishers do that on purpose)

How to sell your book on Amazon:
* type in the ISBN number of the book as if you want to buy it
* click the “Sell on Amazon” button on the page
* Follow the prompts and list your book. I almost always list my book 1 penny lower than the competition in the same class… for example: if “very good condition” books are selling for $20, I sell for $19.99.
* after it sells:
* wrap the book in several layers from a roll of kraft paper (the least expensive) or put it in a padded envelope
* print out a label and tape it to the package
* (the most annoying step is here) Bring it to a US Post office and tell them you want to mail it Media Mail; it’s the least expensive shipping option, though you are required to hand the package over the counter
* Done!

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