The Best Ways to Sell Books Online

Christian Cawley 31-03-2015

I like to read. A lot. So much so, in fact, that my father-in-law installed a self-built six foot long bookcase in our house shortly after we moved in, and even that wasn’t enough to deal with the vast collection of novels, guides, encyclopaedias and biographies that I owned. My wife brought a few into the mix too, as did my children when they arrived.


My office has four sets of shelves, with the one internal wall creaking under the weight of a one-man library, and corners and the over-door space also dedicated to literature. (I won’t even begin to share how many books I have on Kindle).

Some of it has to go.

Here on MakeUseOf, we’ve made you aware of the various ways you can buy books cheaply online How To Find The Cheapest Books Online I’ve written before about my love for reading, but I also have a side of me that loves bargains and hates spending unnecessary coin. What’s a man to do when he wants to buy and... Read More , but just how do you go about selling them? How do you get a quick sale, and is it possible to get a rare or unusual book to sell for the right price?

Selling a Book? First Steps

To start selling your book, make sure the tome is in a suitable state for reading. While a creased cover might just be acceptable, missing and torn pages – or those that have been coloured in or scribbled — result in little return. If you’re fond of making notes in the margins, these will usually not be appreciated, although if they just happen to be in the pen of the book’s author they may increase the value.

Any books you wish to sell should be in as good a condition as possible. If they’re dusty, wipe them down with a dry cloth. If you have books with missing dust covers, check eBay for replacements (yes, you can buy genuine dustjackets on eBay).


Before you start researching prices, group your books into two piles. One will include all titles with an ISBN code, the other all those without. In most cases, the pile with the ISBN codes will be the bigger.

What Is an ISBN Code?


If you’re selling books, you need to know what the ISBN code is, and where it can be found.

In the vast majority of cases, the ISBN can be found on the back cover of a book. It’s easy to spot: it features a barcode accompanied by a row of numbers, and is usually found alongside the name of the publisher and the price of the book. ISBN codes are usually purchased from the companies that log them, although some online publishers (such as Amazon) have their own — useful to know if you’re interested in self publishing Your Guide To Self-Publishing: From Print To Kindle And Beyond! They say everyone has a book in them. The moment of completion brings a mix of immense satisfaction… and a confused, horrified reality: “How on earth am I going to publish it?” Read More .


The International Standard Book Numbers were first introduced in 1970 to succeed the predecessor SBN codes and are used in the UK and North America. Europe relies on the EAN system, which covers all purchasable goods, and reserves a subsection of this index for books. Japan, meanwhile, uses the JAN system.

In theory, these different systems are compatible with International Article Number scheme, which is used to classify items for sale and is vital to the working of electronic point of sale systems. Some online services through which you might sell your books offer speedy input and results by entering not the title but the ISBN code.

For this reason, you’ll need to spend more time establishing the background details and current price of books without ISBN or compatible IAN code.

How Much Is Your Book Worth?



If you’re going to sell a book online, you need to know how much it is worth.

To get a quick idea, search for the book title on Google, which will typically return results that include the book’s current price. This is your starting point. If the title is unread and in pristine condition, then that’s a good clue as to how much you will get for it.

For older books, a quick trip to eBay, Amazon or any of the sites listed below will give you an idea of how much the book will sell for. Sometimes it can be quite discouraging to find a title that once cost $5 is now just 50 cents, but if you’re determined to sell (remember, 10 such titles will generate $5) you should spend time determining which marketplace is most appropriate for that book.

To save time searching multiple sites, however, head to and search for the book you wish to sell. You’ll see results from multiple sites, all with current (or in the case of eBay, recent) prices, giving you an idea of how much you can expect to gain, and where this money can be made.


What Type of Books Should You Sell?


To ensure that you make the most money selling books, you will need to make sure that those you’re putting up for sale are likely to sell, and you can do that by selling particular types of book.

Textbooks The 10 Best Sites To Rent Or Buy College TextBooks Cheaply Today's generation has the best of the online and offline worlds. We didn’t have websites which told us where to find (rent or buy) cheap textbooks. But today’s generation just has to type in a... Read More and titles on university reading lists are likely to command high prices as they’re in demand, and so you should be looking at getting 50%-66% of the original price. First editions, meanwhile, can prove extremely lucrative, especially when they’re by renowned authors, while signed autobiographies are also likely to generate income far beyond the price of the book when you bought it.

Comic books and graphic novels (if you haven’t switched from physical copies to PDFs 4 Android Apps For Reading Your PDF Comic Book Collection Do you have comics saved in PDF format, or are you just looking for a good comic book reader? Check out these amazing Android apps. Read More ) can do particularly well too, especially when there is a movie adaptation or other related media that might be currently popular.

The 5 Top International Sites You Should Use to Sell Your Books

Where can you sell your books online? For the best results (in terms of speed and price) then you should probably be looking to sell through Amazon, eBay or even‘s buy back service.

For text books and reading list titles, find out if your educational institution has an online resell system, which you should be able to use to sell your books when you graduate.

Genre books – perhaps based on a TV or movie series – can potentially also be sold through online marketplaces dedicated to those franchises. This is a good way of selling books that might otherwise be too niche for other marketplaces.

Selling Books on eBay

One of the most popular locations online for selling a book is eBay. This should come as no surprise, but the actual volume of, um, volumes available to purchase at any one time is staggering. Searching for “book” currently yields 2.3 million titles in the search results page. When selling books, keep the following in mind.



Without a decent description you’re unlikely to sell a book. As far as eBay goes, you should include an image of the book, its synopsis (the blurb on the back cover) and statements concerning the condition of the book. Highlight rips or tears, dog ears (those top-corner bends to mark a page in the absence of a bookmark), and scrawlings or other markings, loose or broken bindings, any creases in the bindings, and creases on the front or back of a paperback book.


For the best results, offer your book’s shipping via USPS Media Mail. The reason for doing this is simple: if you don’t, someone else will. This low-cost shipping option for US sellers is a great way to get a prospective buyer to click the Bid or Buy it Now button. In other territories, look for a local budget postage option to similarly entice buyers.


Three books by Ian Fleming, listed separately, might take a while to sell. Three books by Ian Fleming listed together in a single lot, however, can sell a lot quicker. While you’ll be taking a potential reduction in the sale price, this may be mitigated by the fact that you’re only paying for a single listing, rather than three.

When selling multiple books as lots, keep them in thematic groups, by author, lead character, or genre.

Selling Your Books Through Amazon

Rather than rely on the flea market atmosphere of eBay, you can sell books on Amazon. After all, it started life as an online book seller, so it makes sense. The introduction of seller accounts on Amazon makes selling virtually any item extremely simple.


After signing into Amazon, click on the Your Account button, then find the link to Your Seller Account. Here you’ll find the tools, via Inventory > Add a Product to list the book you wish to sell. You can do this by entering the name of the book or the ISBN number, and in the search results click Sell Yours.

Here, enter the relevant details concerning the book’s condition, how much you wish to sell it for and which postage options you wish to use. Note that Amazon offers a fulfilment service for delivery of your goods, but this is really only an option for professional sellers. Your best option is to offer the fastest and most affordable shipping, although bear in mind the trade-off between these two qualities.

As with an eBay listing, ensure that your Amazon inventory item includes an image of the book, a synopsis (these are usually provided) and details concerning its condition. For full details about selling anything online with Amazon see our Amazon shopping guide The Amazon Shopping Guide This free Amazon shopping guide outlines everything you need to know to make the best use of Amazon and secure the best deals. Read More .

Books that I’ve opted to part with in the past (usually unsolicited freebies or duplicates) have sold relatively quickly on Amazon, and it’s good to get confirmation of the sale. However, don’t expect to sell your old books instantaneously, even if you do price them to undercut other sellers.

Use Alibris, Bookfinder or WeBuyBooks to Sell Your Books



EBay and Amazon both take a cut of the profits when you sell an item. If you would prefer not to do this, Albris is a service that accepts an annual fee of $19.99 for listing up to 1000 items. As well as books, movies and music can also be sold.

Pricing your items is a choice between automated tools or setting your own, and once your items are listed they will be seen on Alibris’ extensive partner network, which includes Barnes & Noble and Waterstones.

Bookfinder’s Textbook Buyback


Selling a textbook? You need to start with Bookfinder’s rather excellent Textbook Buyback service, which sources offers for your textbooks from a number of popular online stores, so that you can sell your books quickly.

It isn’t limited to textbooks, either. Despite the name, novels, cookbooks and other types of book can also be sold to resellers using this system.

Another site,, also buys back used textbooks.



This is a British company that also offers a mobile app for Android and iOS. All you need to do is enter or scan the book’s barcode and get a price.

Each book you add to the selling basket is listed below the search box, with an offer price alongside which you can reject if you feel it is too low. Prices offered are based on demand for titles, so if you feel the book is worth more, the best option is to list it elsewhere and wait for the right price.

Incidentally, if you don’t want to sell your books for cash but would prefer to barter or swap them 5 Money Saving Sites Which Uses The Bartering System There are several sites on the Internet that could possibly save you money through the process of exchanging goods and services in lieu of monetary compensation. Bartering websites are similar to eBay in which ads... Read More , various sites exist that support this method of payment.

How Do You Sell Your Books Online?

Have you used any of these tools or methods to sell your books online? Do you prefer to sell locally, perhaps through a Facebook group, or even give them to a charitable cause (charity shop, local church) for them to use to raise funds for projects?

Tell us in the comments.

Image Credits: Graphic novels by  RadiokafkaBarcode, Studying (Shutterstock)

Related topics: Book Reviews, Ebooks, Make Money Online.

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  1. kathy
    March 3, 2017 at 1:14 am

    amazon has just (March 1, 2017) raised their rates so the minimum break-even pice is now $4.00

    • Christian Cawley
      March 31, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      Thanks for updating that, Kathy, much obliged. We'll probably be taking another look at this article in the near future.

  2. Philip Bates
    March 31, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    Oh, I've got far too many books taking up space in my house. But sell them?! Noooooo! I even struggle to part with books I haven't enjoyed. Which sounds particularly sad. Perspectives can change, and something I don't enjoy now might seem more relevant in five, ten years' time.

    Mind you, I have had to sell some. Or donate them to charity at any rate. I suppose if I don't enjoy them now, someone else should be given the opportunity to.

    • dragonmouth
      April 1, 2015 at 5:47 pm

      "Perspectives can change, and something I don’t enjoy now might seem more relevant in five, ten years’ time."
      Perspectives can change indeed. I hope they do but I doubt that they will. For the past 45 years I kept almost every issue of every magazine I've subscribed to and every book that I bought with the idea that, at some point, I will re-read them. Well, I haven't. There always were new magazine issues and new books to read. Once they were moved to the attic, it was "out of sight, out of mind." Then I came to the realization that no matter how much I enjoyed reading them and how informative they were, these books and magazines are outdated.

      By now most of the books and magazines appeal only to the collector as they are mostly useless in content. I'd like to sell all of that stuff and enjoy the money because if I die, to my family the magazines and the books will just so much paper to be recycled.

    • Christian Cawley
      April 2, 2015 at 9:57 am

      I remember reading a few years ago that magazine adverts from the 1970s (mainly cars, cigarettes and fashion) were fetching $10-20 on eBay, even more, simply for being framed. It's worth keeping hold of these pages if you only plan on binning/recycling magazines.

      • Charlotte Oregano
        December 28, 2017 at 2:07 pm

        thanks for this tip! Good to know

    • Alan Culpin
      October 30, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      Good for you, Philip.
      Books are the art of the environment. They stimulate you even when they are just sitting on the shelves. They are old friends.

      All best,

      Alan Culpin
      Abracadabra Books

  3. dragonmouth
    March 31, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Your article is just what I needed. You've given me a few ideas. I have tons of books that I would like to sell, unload, dispose of, and get out of my house in any way possible. I have access to a Barnes & Nobles that buys pre-owned books but they are kind of picky about what they will buy.