Selling used books on Amazon

…which is how it started, before it took over the free world. But I digress.

I’ve got a few hundred used books in varying conditions. Hardback and paperback. Visits to used bookstores yield precious little in sales because they want a)Only titles they lack and b) Perfect conditions.

I figured I’d look at Amazon. I find that I am looking at .99 cents charge per sale + [url=“”]15% + 1.80 closing fee[/url] per book sold*. So. I've got a paperback. Figured I'd post it for 4.00. That comes to 3.39 in fees alone. Add in the cost of a #2 padded mailer and I'm completely fucked. Forget my time. I cannot see charging 6.50 or 7.00 for a used paperback + Shipping. Who the hell would PAY that? Not me. As an example, I have sitting here a gently used copy of "Water For Elephants", by Sara Gruen. I peruse Amazon and find many copies for sale around 1.03 + 3.99 shipping. Now, customer pays shipping. Out of the 1.03 I pay the above fees and find myself with 2.89 in fees to sell a book for 1.03.
Utter lunacy.
Near as I can tell, Amazon has priced themselves out of the used books market.

Do you sell books there? How? What am I missing here?? And if not on Amazon, where can I post titles for sale where I can do even .50 per book better than breaking even??

ETA: Link properly coded in Preview, cannot code properly to Post… :frowning:

Dealers work in bulk. Rather than pay the ninety-nine cents per item charge, they pay a flat rate of $39.99 a month.

Yes I saw that. But I’m not a Dealer nor do I plan to be. I want to shed hundreds of books and get something more than the Goodwill Industries receipt for my taxes. Signing up for $ 39.00/ month would be a titanic loss of cash. It appears to be organized to favor Dealers and not people.

What a shocker.

Well, yes. Amazon is not, and never has been, set up for individuals to run remote yard sales. Craigslist, EBay, and the like may be more like what you’re looking for. Or online book swap sites like (note: I have never personally used any of these sites, so I am NOT endorsing them).

You’re probably better off using eBay. If I’m understanding their pricing correctly, you pay $7.95 a month to set up an account (less if you sign up for a year). You can list up to a hundred items a month without paying an insertion fee. And then you pay 12% of your price for every book you sell.

The problem is that most paperbacks sell in huge numbers and few people keep them forever. Therefore, huge numbers of a commodity item are available for sale. Commodity pricing always tends down to the lowest possible offer. A perfect mint copy may command a premium from a few but a “gently used” book is just a book, not worth paying a penny more than the utter minimum.

A good market for selling a small number of gently used books never existed. Used bookstores always won because of their economies of scale, being able to buy copies for next to nothing in bulk and selling for two to five times the buying price. The internet just institutionalized that.

The OP, as an individual, is in the reverse position. Presumably they bought the original for full price and now want to get back a good-sized fraction. That can’t work; there’s too much competition, much of it organized by giant agglutinators. Thriftbooks, Wonder Books, and Goodwill amass paperbacks by the tens of thousands. They can always underprice any individual.

I’ve found it’s not worth my time to list paperbacks that are already on sale for 99 cents. That’s what the market has priced these commodity items at and I’m too small to compete. Donating them to Goodwill just gives them the zero buyer’s cost that they thrive on. Put them in a library book sale instead and help fund libraries.

If you think you have anything worth a bit more try Alibris. It’s a flat annual fee of $19.99, you give them 50 cents a book or 15% if that’s more, and you get some of the postage back. Alibris Basic is for small sellers like me.

It’s not much, but there never was anything better. Thinking that is a wistful dream.

I buy books on Amazon and also Give them a look, I have no idea what the costs would be.

Many thanks all around.
I did not think I would get back a good chunk of what I spent. I’ve been buying from used booksellers since I was 12. I know better than to think that my 26.99 investment in an Anne Rice book will deliver 13.00 back to me now, several decades hence. EVEN with a hardcover with clean nice dust jacket intact.

I just don’t want to expend energy and real money on padded mailers, only to lose dollars every month. These are very different ideas.

A pal recommended Biblio. I’ll start there and see how it goes. It’s a pretty low-impact selling situation.

You don’t need to pay a fee to list on eBay, as far as I know. You list your stuff and then pay when it’s sold - granted you pay a percentage fee, a PayPal fee and a percentage on shipping so it’s not going to be much better than Amazon (I’m sure Amazon and eBay are watching eachothers’ fee structures) - but right now you can list 200/mo for free and usually in non-covid times you can manage to avoid insertion fees with other promotions.

Speaking of eBay though, do look on eBay for your shipping supplies @Cartooniverse. It’s the best place to buy mailers in bulk. Having printable half-sheet printing labels is a game changer.

Some of the dollar stores have them two for a dollar. They work just as well.

Nobody who does significant business in used books on amazon uses a padded mailer. They ship them in the smallest manila envelope that will fit, and ship via USPS media mail (unless light enough that first class parcel is cheaper). But you are right, that it isn’t possible to make a profit as an individual seller for books costing less than about $4 before shipping.

I’m an Amazon dealer, and most of my business is in what we call “long tails” - a lot of academic books, crafting magazines and other magazine back issues, and sheet music. However, twice I have acquired and sold a current #1 best seller (Laura Hillebrand’s “Unbroken” and a psychology textbook whose title escapes me right now) and truthfully, if “Water for Elephants” is typical of your collection, you’re better off going to a consignment shop or your town’s equivalent of Half Price Books. Find out first if you would be paid in cash, or if they do store credit.

I use padded mailers, because I have a source where I can buy them in bulk for as little as 20 cents each. I don’t get them at a local big-box store because they are far more expensive this way.

Okay. I’ve never sold anything on eBay. I was getting my information from here.

Perhaps you meant

I use it. It’s a decent way to acquire more books, while getting some of the ones I already have to people who would appreciate them. (Note that, despite the name, they are not limited to just paperbacks.) But it’s not a way to make money.

I left paperbackswap when it started charging a fee for the swaps. That was, not coincidentally, when it was bought by Amazon. The number of books and users seemed to plummet.

Has it gotten better? It never was really good for anything other than new genre titles, but if those have recovered it might be worth another look.

So, how much is the shipping for media mail? You charge 3.99, the cost is usually 2.80. That why you see sellers selling for a penny.

I dont see the .99 fee on your link.

when I started trying to sell on Amazon as individual, they make it very difficult–you have to send a copy of passport, pay as store first and then get refund; now they won’t allow me to sell dvds. and just to sell journals as opposed to books, I have to go through paperwork to get permission. what a hassle!

I’ve decided to gift all of them to my brother. He loves books. So do I, I must note. But space limitations are actually a problem.

He lost his life’s collection in a basement flood a few years ago. He’ll be glad to get some beloved titles back in addition to new ones.

And- it’s a stark reminder of what is valued these days. If one can find books for .99 cents for a Kindle reader, how many adore paper books enough to buy them?


When we were emptying out my parents house a few years ago, we asked around local used book stores, they were book hoarder (like me). The first thing they said was that they were uninterested in hard cover fiction unless it was scifi or mystery genre, Nobody wants 1998’s NYTimes bestseller hard covers. Prices were no great shakes either.

I remember having to sell my paperback collection when I moved to another town in 1977; I loaded up a trunk full of science fiction, took them to Bakka books in Toronto, and received the princely sum of $30 at 15 cents apiece. Back then, a paperback would maybe cost $1 to $1.50; there was no competition from anything like the internet. However, over the years I suspect the price paid by used book stores has not kept up with inflation.

Now, genre books probably don’t go “out of style” unlike NYTimes bestsellers, and I assume the same used book recycles the used book shops over and over until the binding glue gives out. I know in the old days I would haunt the used book stores looking for them. In the days before Amazon, it was the only way to get older books by your favourite author unless you were so desperate you would special order from a regular bookstore and wait. (Assuming it was in stock at the publisher…)

Plus, unspoken but apparently ubiquitous, many popular books like movies are available for downloading from assorted “share” sites that violate copyright, and unlike pirate movies, don’t suffer as badly from loss of quality. This further devalues hard copy, since online books can be read on a simple phone. (I still have my Kindle from 10 years ago with a 1-moth battery life. Best way to read a book, but no back-light)