Ask LH: Where Can I Sell My Old Books Online?

Ask LH: Where Can I Sell My Old Books Online?

Hi Lifehacker, Are there any good ways of selling old books online? I tried AbeBooks who have a buyback program but they weren’t interested in most of my books. They did offer to buy one, but only for 30 cents. Thanks, Overbooked

Picture by Thomas Abbs

Dear Overbooked,

Your experience to date has already highlighted two of the more depressing aspects of trying to sell books online: there’s essentially an oversupply, and you won’t make a lot of money doing it in most cases. In part, this is because fierce competition in the sale of new books means that the price for second-hand options has necessarily been depressed. Add in the ability to search the globe for second-hand titles and it’s no wonder the prices aren’t particularly generous.

The one area where you can more easily make money is with books that are relatively expensive in the first place and/or relatively rare. One market where this is fairly common is university textbooks, which is why the market for them online is a little more vibrant. Indeed, if you check out the AbeBooks buyback service you mentioned, you’ll notice it has a very heavy emphasis on textbooks.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you listing the books yourself on eBay, the Trading Post or any other online auction site. However, it pays to do a little research first so you can set a realistic price. Use eBay’s advanced search options to check past sales, and make sure you look at international sales.

In practice, what you’ll probably find is that you’ve got a couple of titles where demand is high enough to get a decent price, and a bunch which won’t sell at all, or will only do so for sub-dollar amounts. With genre fiction, you’ll often find people selling bundles of books by the same author. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the effort of listing is worth the eventual return.

This is definitely a question where we’d welcome reader input, so if you’ve got a suggestion for a good place to sell books online, share it in the comments.


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    • Be careful indeed. Scammers scour the gumtree ads for victims regularly. And not just gumtree but basically every online marketplace. The scammers, for some odd reason, seem to target the weird things that get sold.. like old books and textbooks.. maybe it is easier to make up a believable story.. I don’t know…

      In any case, if you do go with an online market place, make sure you verify the source of the funds with your bank. Many scammers like to send counterfeit cheques, counterfeit money orders as well as have funds illegally transferred out of another victim’s bank account. Wait for the funds to FULLY clear before sending any goods or any money to them.

      Essentially, if they says something like “Oh.. I sent too much money.. can you send the balance back?” or they want you to send money for fees and it involves anything to do with someone overseas wanting money transferred by Western Union, give it a miss.

  • I’ve never found anyone willing to buy books at anywhere near a price that makes it worthwhile. The alternatives I’ve used are either donating to a local jumble sale or distribute them more or less at random with help from BookCrossing gives you a code to stick in the book (on downloaded and printed labels or on purchased labels). You can then leave the book somewhere that it can be picked up and you can use the code to track where it goes (assuming whoever picks it up registers the new location on the web site).

  • Trying to sell a used book is akin to selling used underwear; so if money is what you’re after, try selling something else.

    If you’re looking for space – do the right thing, and donate them. You’ll feel good about yourself.

    If you’re simply done with them, but love books, try Bookmooch – basically it’s a free book swapping service, and I’ve heard good stuff about them.

  • Request from a librarian here: please don’t *donate* (dump) your old textbooks to libraries. What may seem to be altruistic action can actually be a hassle for staff- it takes staff time and money to handle these items, they probably already have enough copies of that text anyway, and old editions can go out of date quickly. It’s more than likely they’ll end up in the bin.

    Donate them, but to other students. I’d suggest sticking up a notice on bulletin boards. There arebe many students who are grateful to save money on their textbooks in this way.

    • I have to admit, I was thinking of doing this for a bunch of books I have that I read but have no reason to keep around anymore… so I’m curious: How about fiction? Especially where I know my local library doesn’t have a copy because I would have borrowed it otherwise?

    • Rob, just google Fishpond. It is a nightmare. They are impossible to contact if anything goes wrong, and it seems things go wrong A LOT.
      So many people telling stories about Fishpond keeping their money and no products ever received.
      It seems because they are really New Zealand (not Aus, tho they say they are) Dept Fair trade and Consumer Affairs etc put complaints in the Too Hard basket.
      Not one complaint I read about was satisfactorily resolved.

      I would not touch them with a barge pole now, after the research I’ve just done.
      Check this site out… (

      A lot of bad stories in there.

  • When I am reading a piece of fiction, a friend or someone usually comes to mind because I think they would also enjoy it, so when it is done, I pass it on to them.
    If it is a reference book, it stays forever on my bookshelf for those times I favor paper over pixels, or when searching for info to share with visitors.
    And then every eighteen months or so, I clear the bookshelf, and take the cache to a second hand bookstore. Sometimes getting a reward. More often not, but always happy to see them shared. Geocacheing quirky books for fun and adventure.

  • You can also sell your books to
    They are always buying books, again it depends on the books you have, if they are old editions its harder to sell them (anywhere). I know they have a program where you can place the books in their library and they will sell or rent them for you to their customer base. Hope that helps.

  • We just tried to give few boxes of good quality books to The Salvation Army but they didn’t want them at all. Where can we donate them s they are not thrown in landfill?

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