How to sell used books online
Got loads of old books or used textbooks lying around, gathering dust on your shelves? You could sell them online and make a nice income – if you know how to play it right.
We all know how criminally expensive textbooks and academic books can be – if you can make some of your money back from them, it's got to be worth a go.
The sooner you sell your used textbooks, the better. They become outdated quickly and, the more relevant they are when you sell them, the more money you can make.
Below, we've listed the best places to buy and sell your uni books, as well as some advice on what to look out for when selling your old books online.
What's in this guide?
5 tips for selling used books
Here are the best ways to maximise your profits when selling books online:
Consider postage and packaging costs
That's where newer sites like WeBuyBooks.co.uk and Fatbrain are a bit more transparent. They cover the postage costs, so the valuation they give you should be the exact amount that you'll receive when your books are sold (unless they decide your books aren't in good enough selling condition).
Check the book's edition before listing it online
You might have a super old and rare book on your shelf without even realising it. If you've got a really early edition of a book, particularly one that's fiction and therefore pretty timeless, it could be worth a small fortune.
The edition of a book could be the difference between a price tag of a few quid and thousands of pounds – it's definitely worth checking it out before listing the book online.
Compare book selling websites to get a good price
It's likely that your book valuations will vary widely from one site to another, and each site mentioned below has its own advantages.
When researching each book selling website, think about whether it would suit your particular type of book. For example, if you're looking to sell a textbook but you can't see any other academic books on the site, it's probably not the right one for you...
We suggest where to sell books for good prices below.
Photograph your books before sending them to the reseller
When reselling your books online, you'll need to send them in for the site to evaluate them – but be wary. You have no control over how the books will be handled during postage.
We've read some angry reviews from users claiming that their valuation was reduced substantially due to water damage that wasn't there when they posted it. Before you post your pre-loved books, be sure to take lots of photos to prove their condition.
Profit from out-of-print fiction books
While selling textbooks should bring in a decent amount of cash, the market for second-hand chart fiction and children's books is pretty much dead.
If you are selling fiction, you'll make more money with the more obscure titles in your collection, or books that are out-of-print. There'll be much less competition in the market, meaning the price of yours should be higher. Kerching.
6 best places to sell books online
We recommend using these websites to sell your used books:
The chances are, there'll be a group on Facebook for people on your course where you can share exam tips, module recommendations and (most importantly!) sell books.
Facebook groups are the easiest way of tapping into the crop of students in the year below who need to buy the exact used books you own – your ideal market.
If you want to get rid of your university textbooks quickly, it's a good idea to bundle books from certain modules together and sell them in bulk.
Also, don't throw away books just because you've made notes inside them – this is one of the rare instances where your scribbles might not actually decrease the book's value.
Good notes could actually come in handy for some students, meaning you could potentially earn more cash for the books you own.
Plus, selling books on your uni Facebook group means you don't have to pay any postage or fees, as you can just meet buyers on campus to hand the books over.
Talking of Facebook groups, join our Student Deals, Freebies and Competitions page for the best deals and money-making tips.
If you're not already on the ball selling everything you possibly can on eBay, now's the time to give it a whirl. They say that one man's trash is another man's treasure, and that's definitely true with eBay.
It's free to list up to 1,000 items per month – any more than that, and it'll cost you £0.35 per item. For all items, eBay charges you 10% of whatever they sell for (including postage fees), but if the item doesn't sell, you don't pay anything.
We have a whole guide on how to work eBay like a pro – make sure you check this out before you get started on selling your books to really maximise your profits.
If your books are in high demand or are out of print, you could end up making a good chunk of money by selling them on eBay.
Tip: Make sure you carefully select your titles and keywords to ensure your books are found by the right eBay audience. So, for example, if you're selling a book about accountancy, include words such as 'business' and 'finance' in your listing.
eBay is also a great place to look for yourself if you're trying to save money buying books.
From what we've heard, WeBuyBooks.co.uk is one of the best sites to sell books in the UK.
They have the quickest and most efficient system going for selling your unwanted books. As a result, customer reviews are pretty decent.
The way it works is you input the ISBN number (usually found next to book barcodes) on their website, or scan it on their book selling app, and you'll receive an instant valuation, which you can then choose to accept or reject as an offer.
Once you've entered enough products to meet the minimum value requirement of £5, you can print off the shipping label and send your books over to their warehouse free of charge. After your books have been checked, the money should be in your account within three days – it's as easy as that.
Fatbrain is a similar service to WeBuyBooks.co.uk. On this site, you can sell books for cash, and they'll process your payment when the books are received.
And, they really focus on the student market, making it an ideal site to sell your textbooks.
You can either use their specialist book selling app to input the ISBN number, or do it on the website, and they'll make you an offer. After that, you should send in your books as quickly as possible.
If they take longer than 20 days to arrive, the order will be cancelled – Fatbrain might still pay you for the books, but they can't guarantee it'll be for the same amount.
It's not just Amazon themselves who sell books on the site – anyone can sign up and sell books to a market of millions of people (you instantly have access to the entire EU marketplace when you sign up, not just the UK).
If you're planning on selling no more than 35 items a month (which is likely to be the case, unless you've been hoarding your books for years), you'll just need to sign up for a basic account – or a 'Sell a Little' account, as Amazon calls it.
Unless you're selling books for a pretty good price, Amazon's rates may make it a bit costly to sell second-hand books through them.
There's no monthly subscription fee for basic accounts, but other charges include:
• £0.75 fee on each product you sell
• 15% referral fee based on how much the item sells for (including postage)
• A 'closing fee' of £0.50.
Along with these fees, it's just a case of uploading the details of your books and their condition onto the site, and waiting for someone to buy them.
Abebooks is a less well-known book selling website, but you'll be amazed at just how popular it is with those in the know (particularly students).
In fact, it has over ten years of online book selling experience, so can offer millions of titles. Abebooks works in a similar way to Amazon, but there's also the option to sell your books on to collectors or other sellers, which might be a good idea if you've got rare or collectors' items.
If you plan to sell books there, though, you need to know your potential buying audience, and when they would be most likely to shop (e.g. September for used textbooks).
There's a monthly subscription fee of around £20 if you're selling less than 500 books, which could add up if you don't manage to sell all of your books quickly. On top of this, you'll pay an 8% commission for every sale.
This list certainly isn't exhaustive – there are loads of other sites out there that could get you a good deal on your old books. These are just our top picks.
Before you start selling books online, have a think about how many books you have to sell, and what the most practical option will be.
Alternative ways to sell books
Although selling used university books online is now the most common way of doing it, there are other routes too.
They might take a little bit more effort but you won't have to fork out on postage or seller fees, so they can work out better value in the long run.
Sell your used textbooks through Blackwell's
Blackwell's specialise in academic books, and they offer a great service where they buy back your used textbooks in return for store credit or cash.
They're quite strict on what books they'll accept. What price they offer you depends on the condition of your books and the demand for them, and the book you're selling must be the current edition (with no new editions forthcoming).
If your books are accepted, you'll receive up to 40% of the RRP on a Blackwell's card to put towards your next batch of books. Alternatively, you can get 33% of the book's RRP on a credit or debit card if you'd rather spend your cash elsewhere.
Advertise second-hand books on notice boards
Although you might be in the habit of walking past uni notice boards without giving them a second glance, they're actually great spots for buying and selling second-hand books.
Once you start looking, you'll likely find that students are trying to sell their used textbooks by pinning up ads on noticeboards.
If you're taking a really specific course, this could be a great option as you're advertising and selling in a place where you know students who need your books will be hanging out.
Most of the time it's free to put up a notice, and you'll probably be able to charge a decent amount for the used books (and won't have to worry about postage fees).
It's one of the easiest options too, as it literally just requires jotting down the titles and your contact details on a piece of paper, pinning it up, and waiting for responses. Pretty quick way to make cash from your old books, if you ask us.
Bring your old books to local markets and car boot sales
If you fancy selling second-hand books the good old-fashioned way, you could hire a stall at your local market or car boot sale. Stall rental prices vary massively depending on where they are and what they specialise in, but some start at just a few quid.
Obviously, this option requires a bit of legwork – you'll have to get all your books there and hang around while customers browse, but you might hit it lucky and end up selling everything you have in less than a few hours.
Look out for markets and fairs that specialise in books, and consider paying a visit before you commit to taking a stall. Nothing wrong with a bit of market research (see what we did there?).
Some markets will be more popular than others when it comes to subjects and niches, so do a bit of research to make sure you're choosing the right place to sell your books.
Offer your pre-loved books to bookshops
You should be able to find a second-hand bookshop near you that wants to buy your old books.
This is a particularly good option if you want to sell a large collection of books, but can't be bothered with all the standing around involved in manning a stall or a car boot sale.
Many second-hand book shops will even take a trip to your house and offer you a combined sum for all the books you're looking to sell.
They'll also organise the delivery to their shop, so this requires minimum effort from your side (although this is reflected in the amount of cash you'll get back for this method, as prices tend to be pretty low).
Bear in mind that, whether you're selling used textbooks or first-edition fiction, some wear and tear is expected. But, more significant damage can impact the price or even make your book unsellable.
Make sure you keep your books away from sunlight as much as possible and, if you have to carry them around, invest in some protective covers.
To make a bit more cash online, have a look at these VERY surprising things you can make money from selling – who'd have thought you could sell your old loo roll?