Selling Books for fun and profit

So, you have some books laying around? Think selling them online could make you come cash and clear out some space? It’s definitely a possibility, but where should you sell them? There are five major options for the amateur bookseller: Half.com, Amazon, eBay, ABE and Alibris. All five have their strengths and weaknesses, but my biggest concern when looking at selling my extra books was the cost. Seller’s fees, shipping, etc. can take a toll on the bottom line. So I set out to see who has the most seller-friendly pricing structure. This what I came up with:

Selling Profit at:    
Price Half.com Amazon Ebay Alibris* ABE**
$5.00 $4.21 $2.79 $0.74 -$0.16 $0.23
$25.00 $21.21 $19.79 $19.99 $15.84 $17.53
$55.00 $48.36 $45.29 $49.02 $39.84 $43.48
$125.00 $112.46 $104.79 $116.69 $95.84 $104.03
$300.00 $277.46 $253.54 $286.00 $235.84 $255.40
$1,000.00 $949.96 $848.54 $963.25 $795.84 $860.90
* $19 annual fee divided into a hypothetical 300 books a year, with a $1/book charge for ‘basic’ plan
** $25 monthy fee divided into a hypothetical 25 books

The above assumes a $2.80 media mail shipping charge with $0.30 for padded envelope packaging. eBay sales include “Buy it now” fees. Albris sale assumes affiliate fee through Barnes & Noble or Walden Books.

Half.com turns out to be the most cost-effective up to $55, where eBay takes over. It’s worth considering that statistically speaking, most books that sell for over $200 take over a year to sell. That’s not going to be possible in a 7-10 day eBay auction – take a peek for yourself and see how many books go unsold there!

So if Amazon, ABE and Alibris cost so much more, why would you want to use them? Eyeballs. They get a lot more searches through them daily than half.com – because people know they are more likely to find the book they want on Amazon (70 million listings) or Alibris (35 million listings) than Half.com (2 million listings), they just have more books. It probably depends on what you’re selling and how many books you’ll sell in a month. If you sold a single $5 paperback at ABE this month, you’d lose $24.77 because of the $25/month fee.

My recommendation? If it’s a few ratty paperbacks or old Tom Clancy novels, use Half.com or eBay. A couple dozen out of print wonders? – Amazon. Clearing out unwanted inventory from your bookstore or a serious collection: Amazon, Alibris or ABE. Me? I decided my books (mostly cover less and mangled) would do the most good in the recycling dumpster at our local school, where the proceeds go to benefit the Special Needs classrooms. Hopefully they are enjoying a better life reincarnated as something truly exciting like stock certificates for Web 2.0 companies.

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