How to sell used books online
Got loads of old books or used textbooks lying around, gathering dust on your shelves? Selling books online is a great way to make some extra 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 They become outdated quickly and, the more relevant they are when you sell them, the more money you can make.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 sell your books, as well as some advice on what to look out for when selling textbooks online.
What's in this guide?
5 tips for selling second-hand 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 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 snapped up (unless they decide your books aren't in good enough condition to sell).
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.Still got some books from when you were a kid? Depending on the edition (and the condition), they could be worth thousands.
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.
5 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 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.
Unlike some of the other sites on this list, eBay will take a slice of your profits and, depending on how busy you are, may even charge you to list items. We have a whole guide on how to work eBay like a pro, including info on the fees, so 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.
All you need to do is enter 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. You can then choose to accept or reject it 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.
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.
Amazon has a couple of selling plans to choose from but, unless you've managed to stockpile an outrageous number of books, the basic plan should be enough for you.
That said, 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. We cover the fees and all the best tips for selling in a whole load more detail in our guide to making money on Amazon.
Once you've got to grips with the 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 20% of the selling price on Blackwells.co.uk on the day of purchase, paid either via a Blackwell's gift card or to your credit/debit card.
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 textbooks.
Once you start looking, you'll likely find that students are trying to sell their second-hand books 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. A 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?