Where to sell your old books online
Got loads of old uni books gathering dust on your shelves? You could turn them into a tidy income – if you know how to play it right.
We all know how criminally expensive textbooks can be, so if you can make some of your money back, it's got to be worth a try, right?
We get that you might be holding on to the hope that they'll come in handy one day - who knows when the situation might require you busting out your first year geography textbook to explain the effects of urban sprawl? But let's face it, they probably never will.
The quicker you get shot of uni textbooks the better, as the information contained in them gets outdated quickly, so it's best to sell them when they're still relevant.
It's also likely that some bright-eyed and bushy-tailed student who's one step behind you in their course could put them to good use, and we all know you could do with the extra cash. So it's a win-win, really!
Below we've listed the best places to buy and sell your uni books, as well as some guidance on what to watch out for in the book-selling game!
What’s on this page?
No doubt there will be a Facebook group of people on your course, for students to share exam tips, module recommendations and, most importantly, to 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 books you own - your ideal market.
You can bundle books from certain modules together and sell them in bulk if you want rid of them quick.
Also, this is one of the rare instances where your scribbles might not actually decrease the book's value - they might even be useful for future students!
Plus this method means you don't have to pay any postage or fees, as you can just meet customers on campus to hand the books over.
If you aren't already on the ball selling everything you can possibly get your hands on 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 definitely is the case with eBay.
Listing your items on eBay is free as long as you sell less than 20 items a month - after that it costs £0.35 per item. However, for all items, eBay charges you 10% of whatever they sell for (including postage fees). 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!
If your books are in high demand or are out of print, you could be in for making a good chunk of money.
Make sure that you carefully select your titles and keywords to ensure your books are found by the right people. 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 have the quickest and most efficient system going for selling your unwanted books, and as a result, customer reviews are pretty decent.
The way it works is you scan the ISBN number (normally found on the back of your book next to the barcode) using their app (or input the number online) and you will 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 free postage 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!
This site is particularly interested in books on Law, Finance and Business, so if you have any of these in your collection, you could make some decent cash!
Fatbrain is a similar service to WeBuyBooks.co.uk, but they really focus on the student market.
As other students are likely to be your main customers on Fatbrain, this site is ideal for selling on old textbooks.
You just scan your ISBN number using their app, and they'll make you an offer.
If there's no market for the book you want to sell, Fatbrain will buy it anyway (although for pennies) and give it to charity.
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).
However, it can be pricey. You'll have to pay a £25 monthly subscription fee just for starters.
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. Then, it's just a case of uploading the details of your books and their condition, and waiting for someone to buy them.
Charges for selling books on Amazon include:
• £0.75 one-off 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
It's definitely an option, but because of the fees Amazon is better suited to seasoned sellers who are making a larger turnover.
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 particularly rare or collectors' items.
There's a £17 monthly subscription fee 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 a 8% commission for every sale.
It's worth pointing out that 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.
Just think about how many books you have to sell, and what the most practical option will be.
Although selling old uni 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.
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 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.
If you have a look round your university, you'll probably notice that students are trying to sell their used textbooks by putting up posters on noticeboards.
If you're taking a really specific course, this could be a great option, as you're advertising 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 books (and won't have to worry about postage fees).
It's one of the easiest options too, as it just requires jotting down the titles and your contact details on a piece of paper.
At local markets and car boot sales
If you fancy doing it 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 pounds.
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 places will be more popular than others when it comes to subjects and niches, so do a bit of research to make sure that you're choosing the right option for you.
This is a particularly good option if you have quite 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 what 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).
As with selling any items online, there are a few things worth considering before you get started to ensure you don't lose out on the cash you rightfully deserve.
- While textbooks should bring you in a decent amount of cash, the market for second-hand chart fiction and children's books is pretty much dead. If you're selling any fiction, go for the more obscure titles in your collection, or those that are out of print
- Note that postage can be pricey, meaning that it's possible to make very little income using sites like Amazon and eBay to sell your books. 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 exactly the amount you'll see in your bank account (unless they decide your books aren't in good enough nick when they arrive)
- Always check which edition you have! This can be the difference between making a few quid on your book and raking in thousands!
- Shop around! It's likely that your valuations will vary widely from one site to another, and each site or selling method mentioned above has it's own perks – you just need to work out which is best suited to you and what you're selling
- Be wary that when sending your books in to sites that will then give you a valuation before reselling, you have no control over how the books will be handled during postage. We have 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! Take lots of pics to show the condition of your books before you post them!
Have you made cash from selling on your used textbooks? What methods did you use, and would you recommend them to others?