Hi! I’m Kyle, the Penny Hoarder.

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How to Make $750 a Month Selling Used Books
Selling Used Textbooks

by - December 30, 2013 - 42 Comments

It’s a bit of a horrifying experience the first time you walk into a college bookstore. I remember the first time saying to myself, “You want a $145 for that?” To say I felt ripped off is an understatement, which is why this side hustle I’m about to share is all the more delicious.

I’ve written previously about how I sell used books online for extra money (“How to Become a Used Book Hunter“), but that involves going to garage sales every weekend and sweating the summer heat. Today I’m going to show you how to buy textbooks online at sites like Ebay, and then how to resell them online for a profit at places like BookScouter.com. Consider it my sweet revenge against the bookstores that overcharged me as a college student. :)

Here’s how to do it…

There’s a handy little tool I use to make this work at BookScouter.com. Their site will let you plug in a book’s ISBN number (right next to the UPC) and then it will tell you how much the book is worth and which buyback company will give you the most money. I use this tool before buying a book to make sure that there is a company willing to pay more for the book than what the Ebay seller is charging.

Let me give you a couple of examples I found this week…

Here is a screenshot of an auction that just closed for the book “Fundamentals of Physical Geography.” It was sold for $52.50 (plus $3.99 for shipping) giving the buyer a total cost of $56.49. Using the tool at BookScouter, I see that Moola4Books.com is paying $61.25 for the same book and they will cover the cost of shipping if I send it to them, giving me a profit margin of $4.76.

Ebay Auction of Fundamental of Physical Geography

Also on Rent Scouter, it shows that Amazon’s buyback program would be willing to give me a $71.77 Amazon gift card for this book. Amazon’s program also comes with free shipping so I would profit a $15.28 gift card. Not too bad!

Here’s another one:

Screenshot Ebay Book Auction

After shipping charges, this book cost the buyer $37.11. BookScouter shows that it could be traded in for a $41.26 Amazon gift card, giving me a profit of $4.15.

As you can see the profit margins aren’t huge on a single book, because there are several other Ebayers playing this trade-in game. However, if you can average a $5 profit margin on each book, you only need to buy 5 books everyday to pocket an extra $750 dollars each month! Considering there over a million textbook auctions on Ebay right now, it shouldn’t be too hard to find 5 books a day to resell.

If you do decide to sell textbooks for cash, there are a couple of things you need to remember:

  • Be sure to check the condition of the book before buying it. Most buyback companies expect a little wear and tear, but if there are ripped pages or severe damage to the cover, they probably won’t accept your book.
  • Pack your books carefully. Most buyback companies will give you a prepaid shipping label, but you are responsible for your own packaging. If the books are damaged during transit, you’ll have to eat the loss.
  • Be careful of payment fees. If you are offered the choice of a Paypal payment or a check payment, keep in mind that if you choose Paypal, you will need to deduct those fees from your profit margin.
Good Luck Penny Hoarders!

  • http://www.twitter.com/aiuprincess1990 Brittanee

    I think this is a great idea. Your post always make me think and realize how many opportunities there are out there for me to make money. This was a great post :)

    • http://familyliteracy2.blogspot.com Tina “The Book Lady”

      Hi! Thanks for this great post. I also read your other post on selling books online and I’ve been wanting to learn more about this. I will definitely be checking Cash4Books.net.

      thanks! Tina “the book lady”

  • http://mymultiplestreams.com Jeff

    I do the amazon book selling as well and another thing to consider in your profit estimate, to see if it’s worth purchasing, is your shipping material. A good shipping box for a text book may run you at least a $1 with bubble wrap as well. If you plan on doing a lot buy in bulk from uline.com will get that cost down. Sometimes the actual shipping cost is less than what is given so there is a little there to help.

    Just be sure you consider all costs when figuring your profit, the determine if it’s worth it :)

  • http://thecollegeinvestor.com Robert @ The College Investor

    I did the same type of thing when I was in college. I would buy used books for the book store, and resell them on Amazon for a profit!

  • http://onecentatatime.com/ SB @ One Cent At A Time

    I call this a selling price arbitrage. A main concept of of doing a business is buying/manufacturing at low and selling at high. This is exactly you are doing here. Did you ever measure the per hour income you are making on average?

  • http://moneyforcollegeproject.com MoneyforCollegePro

    I love this concept. It is a great way for a college student to make money, and an ambitious college student to make a lot of money if they buy all of their books back from their friends.

    How great would it be for a college student to open up their own pseudo used book store in the back of their car, or in their dorm room, and make huge profits every semester.

    I actually work on a college campus, so maybe I will try to implement this at the end of this Fall semester. Awesome idea!

  • http://www.centstosave.com/ Lisa @ Cents To Save

    I have on occasion sold a book or two on Amazon. Most of the time it has been at a profit. This is the first time I have heard of rentscouter, so I will have to check it out.

  • http://www.thefrugaltoad.com Paul @ The Frugal Toad

    I wish you would have written this article a few years ago. :) We threw out a bunch of college text books. I’ll have to look up the value of some books we still have on hand.

    Thanks for the tip!

  • http://legitmakemoneyonline.blogspot.com/ Alexander | Legit Make Money Online

    Thanks for sharing another way to make money online! I’ve been considering doing this for a while, but it seems like a bit of trouble and somewhat risky. I’ve been using BigWords when I sell my textbooks back, but this site looks great too. I still can’t believe how expensive textbooks really are. If you can buy a new looking used book and sell it back as new, that’s the best way to make a profit. :)

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  • http://blog.familymoneyvalues.com Marie at FamilyMoneyValues

    Interesting! It’s unbelievable to me that I still have a few of my college text books. They are sooooooo far out of date – the only thing they are good for is as a paper weight or fuel for the fire!

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  • http://adventuresinmommying.blogspot.com Anna

    Thanks for the suggestions! I’ve used http://bookscouter.com to find places to sell too…not sure whether there’s a benefit of one site over the other? I think Book Scouter has more websites they search, but I’m not sure how accurate it always is.

    Any suggestions for finding good textbook prices or the best textbooks to buy? :)

    Thanks for your website! I just came across it a few days ago and really like all the great ideas you suggest.

  • http://www.mapleleafmommy.com Deanna T.

    Great post! If you want to save the hassle of packing and shipping, you can bring the bools to your local U on buy back day. The fist week of school there are usually reps at the bookstore for the buy back companies. Or at least this is true where I live.

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  • http://www.ontargetcoach.com Brent Pittman

    I’ve sold a good few books myself. Finding a good garage sale or freecycle with free textbooks is like finding gold!

  • http://myfreemoneysavingtips.com/ Joan

    This is a good idea to make some extra money. I love your site!

  • chris

    I don’t think the process described here is exact. The 2 examples involved auctions in progress. That means final prices definitely would be higher, which might eliminate the profit when the costs and value of time spent are incorporated. Also, you are NOT the one who is bidding. And if you participate, you might not end up as the winning bidder. So you would have no book !
    Generally, arbitrage opportunity implies inefficiency in the marketplace. In this case the buying and selling of used books. It is a huge market with many participants and actors. There might be some pockets of inefficiency occasionally. But I seriously doubt you can make a business out of it.

  • http://www.bestoffiverr.com Charleen Larson

    I find textbooks at garage sales every weekend — but — they are always out of date. When I first started scouting for books three years ago, I would make $80 or $100 on the occasional textbook. Not any more. I think the book cycle has gotten shorter and publishers are obsoleting texts quicker, probably with the intent of killing the resale market.

    • ~*Beverly*~

      I agree, text books are a waste of time because every couple years they are obsolete for newer books or different books all together. By the time they reach a yard sale or library books sale they are worthless. I know I held onto my college text books for at least five years as I was still paying off loans! Most people do…

  • Anna

    Also, in the first example, the textbook is the Instructor’s Edition which Amazon won’t accept I don’t think. In the second, the book is listed as in “Good” condition, so you probably wouldn’t get the full Amazon value.

    I think you’d probably have to grab books from yard sales or maybe library sales to make this work. I think even stores like the Salvation Army look online to see how much they should charge for things. I’m not sure whether they will sell high priced things online, though.

  • atlcharm

    hmmmm…. I figure this may take a lot of time if you don’t know what books to look for exactly.

  • Stacy

    You can also go to a library book sale or free cart and find those technical tomes they think no one wants to read- for example, a huge book called The Boiler Operator’s Guide, set up an Amazon seller’s account, and sell them for an obnoxiously high profit. You have to go for those books that seem too strange or technical to be appealing (often textbook buyback stores will buy them too, but you can make a lot more money selling them on Amazon).

  • Aileen Drill

    For two years I have bought textbooks on Ebay and sold them on Amazon. However, I am about to give up buying on Ebay because so many of the books now have been rated too high. Such as, a book with highlighting, notes, and tabs listed Like New. It is happening all the time and Ebay will not crack down on it.

  • John Lewis

    Hi Kyle,

    Selling books certainly works, or at least it has for me too! In fact, earlier today I received payment to my PayPal account. I’m not making anything close to $750, but at least I found a way to earn money.

    • John Lewis

      By the way, I was not charged any PayPal fees.

      • Theresa

        Hi John, compliments of t he season to you..
        I live in South africa, i have a lots of books, encyclopedias almost
        in a brand new condition, hw do i go about selling them? can you help

        • John Lewis

          Hello Theresa,

          There are several book buying websites that will give you a price quote for your books. If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad I suggest you install the free Book Scouter app. This app will tell you which book buying website is offering the highest quote for your book. I used it to do just that. And since I had more than one book I wanted to sell, I kept note of the price quotes and which website(s) offered them. Afterwards, I went to the websites and created an account, if it was necessary, and followed their instructions on selling my books to them. Also, some websites will purchase your electronics, DVDs, CDs, and console games.

          In case you don’t have access to the Book Scouter app I’ll name the websites I used. They are legit and they sent money to my PayPal, and I wasn’t charged any fees. The websites I used are:


          Lastly, when you pack the books in your boxes, put the book inside plastic bags like you get at most stores (e.g., the grocery store). Why? This will protect your product from being smeared. Smeared by what? If you have any old newspaper use it to fill in the empty spaces of the box. Next, shake the box. If you feel movement you know you need more newspaper or other packing material. I suggest newspaper because it is cheap to purchase, and you or someone you know may have old newspapers just lying around collecting dust.

          I hope this helps.

          Best wishes,


  • Gladys

    Hi Kyle,

    I’ve recently subscribed to your newsletter. I am simply intrigued by your nifty ideas to earn extra cash! I mean really, who knew :-) I’m a full-time mom, 50-60 hrs per week, with 2 young sons. My schedule is quite full, and my challenge is always “finding time.” What would be immensely helpful is knowing how many mins/hours per day you have spent on these activities to help your followers discern which opportunities are right for them.

  • http://www.cashmoneyhustle.com Susan

    I used to sell my used college textbooks on Amazon.com and Half.com. Books usually sell much quicker on Amazon, but their fees are so high.

  • Michelle

    I don’t have any textbooks. What are some good sites for selling other kinds of books?

  • Jay

    This is very difficult to do, I tried it. Look at the example, the book costs around $40 and you make $4, that is 10%. Let’s say that it your average rate of return, 10%. You would need to have $7500 in accessible funds to make the $750 a month because you are not paid right away, when asking for cash from websites it takes about 2.5 weeks turnaround time to get paid. Just food for thought.

  • Sue


    Love your ideas and with a new smartphone (android), am excited to try bookselling.

    I have downloaded the site suggested/bar scanner and cannot get my phone to recognize the bar scanning function. I have followed the directions to a “T” but no luck.

    Can you point me toward a site to help?

    • Dana

      You may not have autofocus on your phone camera. I had that problem. Fortunately I was near the end of my phone contract and could trade it out for one that did. Look up the specs on your phone model to be sure.

  • Kathy G

    Made $400 this month

  • Chris

    Great ideas! Did the book reselling all through Business school. especially helped working at a warehouse where my bosses were cool with me using their boxes. ake surebthe books you buy on eBay arent INTERNATIONAL editions. Alot of people post them and say they are the same but the resellers wont accept them

  • Sammi

    Very outdated advice, and to buy a book used and resell it as new is not honest. NOBODY will pay a nickel for an encyclopedia anymore, as they are old as soon as they are printed. It has been proven wikipedia is more accurate, so why would anyone ever waste a minute with inaccurate ancient history? Schools are now going to tablets. I doubt students will even use paper books in five more years. The only place left for books are countries without electricity.

    • Kyle Taylor

      Hi Sammi -

      I mean this in the nicest way possible, but I don’t think you really understood the theme of the article. We aren’t trying to resell used books as “new”. There are tons of book buyback companies that purchase used books. Yes, some books are too out dated for them to use, but there are plenty of used books that still have value.


    • Dana

      Rare earth metals are running out, and that’s what they’re using in all the newfangled tablet computers now. Soon as those are gone, that’s it. Enjoy your little blip of higher technology because that’s all it’ll be. There’s a reason books have survived as a technology for so many thousands of years.

  • http://www.pailwriter.com Pail Writer

    I recently read this article and thought I would put it to the test.
    Congrats! You passed – with some exceptions.
    I purchased 9 books from different sellers on e-bay and resold them.
    My profit was about $450. Not bad at all.
    Now, the glitches I encountered.
    You mention using Book Scouter to gather the best price for you. For the most part this is a good option but not always. I occasionally ran into the issue with Book Scouter listing one price while the actual site was offering a different price. I found the best option was to book mark each of the popular book buying sites and visit them independently.
    Another issue I found was that sometimes the price offered went down form the time I purchased the books to the time they arrived for me to ship them. Some of the books would take a week or more to arrive and the quote went down from the buyer, on the other hand sometimes they went up.
    So watch your shipping and timing when doing this.
    I also noticed that most of the book buyers would offer a history of what they paid for a book. Check the history and if your book offer went down you might be able to hold out a few days or weeks and check daily to see if the offer price comes back up.
    I also found a trend, the college text books offer the best price margins. My profits were $40 – $50 per book. I also noticed the books that sold on e-bay for $40 to $90 had the best profit margins.
    Also, watch out for “International Editions”. Most of the book buying sites will not buy them but they are all over e-bay.
    Over all, this is a great idea. Nothing to quit the day job over, but certainly a good source for “extra” income.
    Thank you Penny Hoarder and keep the ideas coming.

    • Jay

      How did you start with your book search; what titles and subjects.


  • Devon

    Thanks for this info- I am excited to try this! But I am just curious as to why the buy-
    back companies don’t just go on ebay themselves and save themselves this money?

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