This post was updated on 1/12/2015
Lately, I've been buying textbooks on Craigslist and reselling them on Amazon. I've been consistently purchasing the books in the $10-40 range and reselling them on Amazon FBA for over $100.
Here are some winners.
I bought this textbook, Understanding Business, for $40 and sold it for $149.95.
I bought this textbook, Biology: A Guide to the Natural World, for $10 and sold it for $99.
Selling Textbooks on Amazon FBA
I’ll get into the Craigslist part in a minute. But first, I want to explore the advantages (and disadvantage) of selling textbooks with Fulfillment by Amazon. Why does it work?
1) Urgency. Many college students need their textbooks immediately. Many times they will sign up for a class just a few days before it starts, or they might have signed up for class late. Either way, they need the books now. Since FBA products are eligible for Amazon Prime, they can get their textbooks in 1-2 days. Waiting 7-10 days for media mail is not an option.
2) Amazon Prime for College Students. The Amazon Prime membership normally costs $79 a year (it recently changed to $99). However, college students get the first 6 months free. Plus, they get 50% the regular membership price.
3) Who's Paying? College students are not always paying cash for the school supplies. Sometimes they’re using their parent’s credit card or using their financial aid money. So, for these reasons, they might be willing to pay a higher price for a textbook on Amazon.
There is one drawback to selling textbooks. Amazon has a textbook rental service and these books are not only eligible for Amazon Prime but they also show up in the buy box as well. You can see the rental price is the examples in the beginning of the post. As you can see, the typical rental prices are a good deal. Since most students plan on selling their book back anyway, a rental might not be a bad idea. It’s hard to say how much of an impact this makes on my overall textbook sales, but I don’t think it helps.
Buying Textbooks on Craigslist
OK, so now let’s talk about sourcing textbooks on Craigslist. This works fairly well, since most students just want to offload their books and get cash right away.
Here's how to do it.
1) Check your local city on Craigslist and click on the “books” section. Search for a seller with multiple textbooks for sale. Ideally, you will want to buy more than one book at a time, but individual books will work if the price is right.
2) Compare the price. Look at the Craigslist price and compare it to the Amazon price. Most of the time, the seller will include the ISBN numbers so you can look them up on Amazon. If not, email them and ask the for the ISBN numbers or pictures. While some students are aware of the current Amazon price, most will not know the FBA value. This is important because FBA textbooks can sell for $20, $30, and even $50 higher than the lowest merchant fulfilled price.
3) Make an offer. If their prices are in line with Amazon, offer them half of what they're asking for. Then negotiate from there. Typically, I will make several offers to different sellers in a day, so it's not a big deal if they don't respond.
4) Meet in a public place. Once the price is agreed upon, pick a time and place to meet. A public place like a grocery store usually works best.
5) Make the trip worthwhile. Since you will already be out of the house and in “business” mode, it's not a bad idea to stop at some thrift stores and libraries to get some extra inventory.
Here are some final things to consider if you plan on doing a similar sourcing method:
- Location. Obviously, it helps to live next to a community college or university. If not, look for listings of non-fiction books that are from a private collection.
- Timing. December and May are probably going to be the best time to buy textbooks since that's when the semester usually ends. Also, try to get your books listed and shipped to Amazon by January 1st and August 1st since that's when the textbook sales on Amazon will be the highest.
- Quality. Ask for a picture of the textbooks before you meet the seller in person. You want to make sure that it is a legitimate copy that you can sell on Amazon. Stay away from the international soft cover version or the loose-leaf binder edition.
All in all, I think this is a profitable strategy. I’ve had some success with it, and I will continue to do this for the rest of the year. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in August when the textbook season is full swing. Has anyone else had some success sourcing textbooks or other items on Craigslist? What are your strategies?