What Are My Books Worth?
Determining the value of your books is confusing. After years of schooling or a career devoted to study, you probably have quite a bit of money invested in the books on your shelves. Now you’ve determined that it’s time to downsize or make room for more and you’d like to sell your books, but you have no idea what your books are worth. You know your books are not worth as much as you paid for them, but are they worth half as much? .25 cents each? Or . . . gulp . . . not much at all?
The good news is that determining the value of your books depends largely on the amount of work you want to invest in selling them. The bad news is that, by and large, most books are not worth much money, no matter how much work you put into selling them. In this article, you’ll find which methods of selling your books make you the most money and some tips on how to capitalize on that value.
The amount of money you get out of your books depends on the three possible ways you can sell them:
- Selling them yourself online,
- Selling them to a book dealer, or
- Just donating or recycling them.
Selling your Books yourself Online
- Get the most money for your books
- Easy to do through Amazon.com
- Need to store inventory
- Supplies and time to package and ship sold books
- Income may take months or years to realize.
To determine the “online” value of your books you need to first decide if you are willing to go through the work of manually listing your books online, storing them while awaiting their sale, and lastly, packaging and shipping the books (paying for postage up front) when they sell. If you are not willing to become what amounts to a used bookseller, at least temporarily, don’t even bother trying to find the online value of your books. Just read how to sell your books to a bookdealler below.
That being said, if you’re game to be a used bookseller, then you can determine the “online” value by comparing the asking prices for USED copies of your books in similar condition on Amazon and then subtracting 30%. Most used books sell through Amazon so that’s where you go to check the value of your books (Note: If you have very old or rare books, use www.Abebooks.com instead of Amazon). Amazon’s fees are approximately 25% of a book’s sale price and you should add another 5% cost for the shipping supplies bringing the total “cost” of your books to 30%. So, to find the value of your books if you’re going to sell them online yourself, add up the prices of all of the books on Amazon (or a representative sample and then extrapolate) and multiply by 70%. Then think again about doing all the work yourself of listing each book online one at a time and shipping each on as it sells.
Consider selling your books through Amazon’s FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) program in which Amazon does all the packaging and shipping work FOR YOU. Review the program here.
Selling your books to a Book Dealer
- Get some money for your books at little to no effort on your part
- Receive payment for your books all at once (usually)
- Free up space instantly on your bookshelves.
- Get very low money for your books
- Most book dealers won’t take all your books, just the ones they can make money on.
If you aren’t going to sell the books online yourself, the next best way to get money out of them is to sell them to a book dealer. Some book dealers, like us, may visit your home/study/office to make an offer on your books. Some book dealers may ask for you to email a list of the books or send photos of them. Usually, book dealers won’t make an offer on your books without seeing them first, so somehow your books and the book dealer have to meet.
Also, if you already looked up the Amazon asking prices for your books or you have a fresh memory of what you paid for your books new, you may be shocked by the low prices book dealers will pay for your books. Book dealers will often pay 5-25% the “online” value of your books. That means a book dealer might offer you .50 to $2.50 for a book you purchased new for $30 which is now on Amazon for $10 used.
A safe way to determine the “book dealer” value of your books would be to look up the asking prices on Amazon and cut them by 90%.
If you want to have negotiating power with the book dealer look up the Amazon asking prices for about 50 of your books before you meet. From those 50 titles, extrapolate the average “book dealer” value of one of your books (remember, the “book dealer” value is 10% of the Amazon asking price). If the book dealer’s offer is in the range of the “book dealer” value for your books, you’re getting a fair offer.
Just Donate or Recycle your books
- Books given to help others
- Frees up space in your collection instantly.
- No money for books.
- Often need to pack and transport books to place of donation.
Lastly, the value of recycling or donating your books is not in the monetary compensation (none) but in the satisfaction of making way for new books (if you’re recycling) or passing the knowledge in your books onto others (if you’re donating).
If you have a scholarly collection of books some colleges or universities will come to you and pack up and remove your books for donation. Just remember to ask for help packing them once the college or university has expressed interest in your books.
Books are in a small class of objects that are portable, prevalent, and sometimes worth a little money. Getting the most money out of your books is inversely related to the amount of work you are willing to do in order to realize their top dollar amount. If you choose to sell them yourself online or to a book dealer, don’t expect to recoup your initial investment (by far!), but do expect to sell them for some money. Conversely, you could get high “value” out of your books, even if you don’t make any money off of them by donating and recycling them. Your books are worth something. It’s up to you to determine just what that something is.