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Is It Possible to Profit from Used Book Stores?

I’ve been selling books on Amazon since 2006, and I’ve always ignored sourcing at used books stores.  Why?  Not only are the books priced high, but also I’ve always assumed that the owner would know the exact online value of his/her inventory.  Thus (in my mind) the arbitrage opportunities would be slim.

A few months ago, I started scanning books at a local bookstore.  This store specializes in textbooks so I knew there would be some valuable books.  But how much would I have to pay?  To my surprise, I found a few winners.  This got my wheels turning, and I decided to go “all in.”  I scanned almost every single book in the academic/textbook section.

Here are the books.

Book Store Pics


I bought 51 books for $277.55, which comes to an average purchase price of $5.44 a book.  Here are some individual winners:

GNRS Geriatric Nursing Review Syllabus: Sold for $103.99
Handbook of Sexuality-Related Measures: Sold for $88.57
The Sea Floor: Sold for $66.90

After four months, 40 of the books sold.  The gross Amazon sales are $1071.51.   Here is the breakdown of the fees/expenses:

Gross Sales $1071.51
Amazon Fees: ($280.43)
Cost of Books: ($277.55)
UPS Shipping: ($15)

Total Profit: $498.53

Not bad considering I was in there for about 3 hours.  There are some disadvantages though.  I had to scan A LOT of books.  I would say that only 5% were any good.  I couldn’t imagine doing this with a camera phone and internet connection.  I used a database scouting tool with a socket scanner.  In addition, I had to pay quite a bit more upfront than I’m used to.  A little over $275 is a lot to pay especially since many of the books had a rank above one million.  I’m used to paying $1 or less per book at library sales and thrift stores.

It was a good day though.  My only wish was that I had given that bookstore a chance much earlier.  The irony is that I used to live about a mile way from that store, and I never went in there.  It was only until I moved 90 minutes away that I discovered it was a gem.

The exact profits were calculated using SourceProfit.





Here are the top four FBA price spreads in September 2014.  In other words, FBA items that sold for a much higher price than the lowest merchant fulfilled price.

1.  Enduring Vision.  Sold on FBA for $45.60.  The low merchant fulfilled price is $7.06.

2.  Nicholas Copernicus: And the Founding of Modern Technology.  Sold on FBA for $65.01.  The low merchant fulfilled price is $.01.

3.  Letterpress:  New Applications for Traditional Skills.  Sold on FBA for $123.01.  The low merchant fulfilled price is $53.17.

4.  Louie!  Sold on FBA for $19.95.  The low merchant fulfilled price is $.01.


Here’s a video for more details.



Buying Textbooks on Craigslist and Selling them on Amazon FBA









Unadvertised Library Book Sales and Reoccurring Revenue

I’ve talked about the benefits of unadvertised library book sales many times before. Since there is a less likelihood of other sellers present, you have a much better chance of getting all of the valuable books for yourself. There’s also another element as well. Most library book sales are a yearly event.  So, if you find a good one, you can return the next year for hopefully similar results. Now you have a reoccurring revenue stream year after year.

For example, in the summer of 2013, I found a really good unpublicized sale. My current profit is $1117 from that single book sale. In 2014, I returned to that exact same sale looking for similar results. As I had hoped, I was the only one there with a scanner.

2014-07-13 11.16.09

Books were sorted, listed, and shipped to Amazon in 90 minutes using ScanLister with the Amazon Label Service.

Here are the purchase results:
Books Purchased: 257
Cost of Books: $219
UPS Inbound Shipping: $81.53
FBA Label Service: $51.60

Total Costs: $352.13

Here are the sales results: (after 75 days of being live on Amazon)
Books Sold: 151
Percentage of Books Sold: 59%
Total Revenue (after all Amazon fees): $1130.02

Total Profit: $777.89

In conclusion, this sale was not only profitable the first time around but the second time as well.  In a 15 month time period, I was able to make a reoccurring revenue stream of $126.33 per month.  You can find unadvertised book sales on www.booksalesfound.com or simply by calling your local libraries and asking them the date of their next sale.