How to Buy Used Books to Sell on Ebay

Selling books on eBay can be a rewarding business, but how do you obtain inventory to sell at cheap prices that bring a profit? Knowing your product—and where to obtain interesting books at reasonable prices—is invaluable for any eBay book business.

How to Buy Used Books to Sell on Ebay

Things You'll Need

Boxes for books

Storage area


1 - Examine Your Own Collection. Examine your own collection of books first—chances are, some hidden treasures are sitting on your own dusty bookshelves. In our household, we have even sold one self-published, limited edition (1,000 copies) music book for over $150.


2 - Collectible books bring higher values, like this Australian edition that sold for $55. Educate yourself on what sells—the commonplace does not sell nearly as well as those hard-to-find, narrow specialty titles. In other words, that Danielle Steele bestseller won't sell as well as that rare book on the cult band Radio Birdman.


3 - Find used bookstores in the local area, using phone books from neighboring towns. Establishing a relationship with your bookseller can also help—many accept trades, allowing you to barter slow-moving titles for ones that sell. The more informal a bookstore, the better—these are more common in smaller towns. Paperback exchanges also are invaluable.


4 - Pick up discarded books from library sales, which allow you to acquire many rare titles for next to nothing--this is one situation where community involvement pays off. Check local newspapers and bulletin boards for listings.

5 - Search the Hidden Places. that are less obvious. Don't overlook rummage sales, particularly those held by old stores; however, you must come early to get the best picks, because the really good stuff tends to disappear quickly.


6 - Browse garage sales, but use judgment before spending your money—a profusion of children's toys being sold in the driveway probably doesn't indicate a strong readership. Study newspaper listings to see what's being sold and if books are listed.


7 - Obtain free books from friends and family; many people will clean out books when they're redecorating or trying to organize their homes. For more expensive items, strike a deal with relatives or friends.


8 - Visit estate sales and antique stores, where entire libraries are often sold. Older books obviously dominate antique stores, but even old magazines can fetch decent values—a 1950s-era women's magazine with Lucille Ball on the cover sold for $35, five times the price paid.

Tips & Warnings

Be involved with your community—many charitable organizations are involved in book sales.

Let friends and family know you are searching for books to sell on eBay. Many will be glad to help and consider the donation of books to you as a worthy cause.

Learn what sells. Non-fiction generally sells far better then fiction; alternative topics and hard-to-find books definitely sell better.  

Be mindful of insects, mold and fungus—nobody wants to be seen as the cause of infesting an entire library. Even bedbugs can be buried in books.

Study what doesn't sell. The world is inundated with Harlequin Romance paperback novels and Reader's Digest Condensed Books—if you see a cheap deal for them at used bookstores and library book sales, there is usually a reason for it.

When purchasing old books, check the condition carefully—including the state of the binding—and watch for loose glue, rips, smears, stains or tears that will spoil the buyer's experience. If a book looks too beaten up, put it back.

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