How to Pack and Ship Used Books

by SellBooksBlogger

Ship used booksIt can take a lot of steps to actually sell used books, you have to find them, evaluate them, buy them, store them, organize them, list them and sell them. However, after all that there is one last step, and as far as your customer is concerned, it’s probably the most important of all: sending your books to their new owners.

Shipping brings with it a new set of questions: what carrier to use, what speed, what cost, can you get tracking, insurance, etc., etc. etc. All of those are important, and I may go into them another time, but today I want to talk about how to pack your books, what it is that you actually ship them in.

Just as with most other aspects of how you sell used books, you have a number of choices when it comes to packing your books. You can go quick and dirty (and cheap!) all the way up to having dedicated machinery for just that purpose. There are a few different factors to consider when selecting the method that’s right for you, including its cost, the image it projects and how well it will actually protect the books.

Brown Paper Bags
It was good enough to cover your 5th grade history textbook, so shouldn’t it be good enough to cover the books you send across the country? Well, maybe not. While brown paper bags do have the advantages of being cheap and/or free and readily available, you should think about the fact that it may not create the greatest image of you in the mind of your customer. Even if a paper-wrapped book gets to the customer in pristine condition (which it might not) the cheap wrapping could have a conscious or unconscious effect on how the customer views you, which in turn affects how they rate you. If you are running your own site, it also can affect whether they will give you repeat business or recommend you to others.

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SalesRank and Strategy: A Tale of Three Sellers

by SellBooksBlogger

Sell books on AmazonA lot of people are drawn to sell used books because of the freedom it provides. You get to be your own boss, set your own hours and do business the way you see fit. However, the fact that there is no one to impose rules on you doesn’t mean that there are no rules and anything goes. If you want to be successful at selling books it’s important to set up rules for yourself, to have a coherent strategy. Otherwise, as much as you love the freedom of being a bookseller, you may not be one for very long.

One very useful tool for building a strategy is Amazon’s Sales Rank. If you’re not familiar with Sales Rank, it’s basically a measure of how high sales are on Amazon for a given book. A lower number means higher sales so for instance, a book with a Sales Rank of 1,000 might sell 100 copies a week, while a book with a sales rank of 500,000 might sell only one copy a week.

You can make good use of this information when you are developing a strategy for the books you add to your inventory. You can set down a boundary and say “I will only buy books that have a page rank under x number” (remembering of course that lower number s are actually better, just like it’s better to get 1st place than it is to get 128th).

Let me illustrate the importance of having a strategy like this with three different real-life examples. I’ve briefly mentioned that I have helped other booksellers to set up their own businesses. However, as time as progressed, they’ve each decided to run their business in their own distinct way.

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Sell Used Books on Amazon: Another True Cautionary Tale

by SellBooksBlogger

Suspended from selling books on AmazonOnce again I want to apologize for the delays and technical issues, and state of the blog in general over the past week or so. It’s been crazy around here, and I appreciate your patience. I’ve actually got a post for you today, just a quick one to let you know I haven’t completely abandoned you.

It’s time to talk once more about the possible pitfalls and perils of trying to sell used books on Amazon.

I know we’ve covered this before in various ways, but this time I’m not talking about myself. There is a colleague of mine, another bookseller who’s about a quarter my size. He sells around a couple hundred books a day.

At least he did, until he recently got his account suspended by Amazon.

That’s right, it happened. The thing we all dread – suspension. He told me that he was advised in the morning that he needed to get the situation rectified, and by that same evening his account had been suspended.

He knows why it happened. He simply hadn’t been doing what he was supposed to be doing. He had been shipping books late, he didn’t have good customer service, and he didn’t reply customer inquiries in anything approaching a timely manner, if at all. Amazon, of course, doesn’t take too kindly to Read the rest of this entry »

Will The Kindle Kill The Used Book Business?

by SellBooksBlogger

kindleThere’s been a lot of speculation lately about what the future of reading will look like. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard a lot about the Kindle and a lot of peoples various opinions on what impact, if any, it will have on the publishing industry.

For those rock-dwellers out there, the kindle is Amazon’s handheld device for reading e-books and other electronic media. Since the original Kindle came out in late 2007, two new versions, the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX, have already been released.

The Kindle isn’t the first attempt to replace paper books with digital counterparts, but it has certainly been the most talked-about and the most successful. Amazon has even developed a “Kindle for iPhone” app.

So should we all be looking for a new line of work? Is the paper book destined to go the way of the dodo? Will the Kindle kill the used book business?


The first video ever broadcast on MTV, way back in 1981, was a song called “Video killed the Radio Star”. Only it didn’t. Turn on your radio and you’ll still find news, music, politics, advice and more up and down the dial. Video may have killed radio serials like The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, but that’s about it.

The same principle holds true for the Kindle. Sure it may absorb part of the reading market, Read the rest of this entry »

Shipping Used Books Through the Post Office Could Cost More Than Ever

by SellBooksBlogger

Higher postage to sell used booksShipping the books you sell on Amazon may soon cost you more than ever. The U.S. Post Office is in trouble. Deep trouble. And that means we can expect more rate hikes coming down the pike.

The USPS’s woes stem from a number of factors. The continued encroachment of the internet on mail’s traditional role in communication is still impacting the volume of mail that’s sent each year. In addition, the economic crisis hit industries like real estate, which usually accounts for a pretty high volume of direct mail, harder than most.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Postal Service “reported a nearly $2 billion loss for the second quarter ended March 31, with mail volume down nearly 15% from the year before”. According to a statement released by the Post Office itself in February, if current trends continue, “the Postal Service could experience a year-end net loss significantly higher than last year’s $2.8 billion loss”.

So what does all this mean for us as humble sellers of books?

Expect the Post Office to raise rates every six months.

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Top 10 Other iPhone Apps for Booksellers

by SellBooksBlogger

A lot of people in the bookselling world are buzzing about the possibility of using iPhone scanners. Unfortunately for now it seems that all that’s available are not-so-great apps that “scan” barcodes by taking a picture of them, a method that’s unreliable at best. However your daily activities as a bookseller include a heck of a lot more than just scanning for possible inventory. I’ve compiled a list of other apps that you as a bookseller can use. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. MapQuest 4 Mobile

When you’re out scouting it’s important to be able to figure out where the heck you are going. Whether you’re exploring new areas beyond your usual stomping ground just trying to get home again, this app can be a real lifesaver.

2. Quickoffice

One of the greatest things of having a device as powerful and versatile as the iPhone is that it frees you from being tied down to your computer. With this app you can view and edit your files right from your iPhone with Microsoft Word and Excel functionality.

3. Facebook

Keep in touch with your friends, family and other contacts on the go. Who knows, maybe one of them is just dying to tell you about the garage full of used books they just inherited.

4. Gmail

Just another way to keep in communication no matter where you go.

5. GasBuddy

Every expense affects your overall profit – including gas. With this app you can find the lowest price gasoline and keep fuel costs from burning a hole in your bottom line.

6 Evernote

Never forget anything again with this great app that allows you to take pictures, record voice notes and basically record anything important that you want to remember later. It even scans images and recognizes the words in them so you can search for them later.

7. Google Sync

Keep track of your Google contacts and Google Calendar, anywhere any time.

8. YouTube

Just because you have some downtime or have to wait somewhere for a while doesn’t mean you have to be bored. With YouTube on your iPhone you have millions of videos at your fingertips to entertain you. Better yet, you can check out one of the countless educational videos on the site and learn something.

9. iSpend

With iSpend you can keep track of all your expenses, categorize them and even generate reports that you can export to Excel.

10. Tetris

Because you always need Tetris. Always.

Sell Used Books On Amazon: Handling Policy Violations

by SellBooksBlogger

I’ve warned you about selling on Amazon, and how important knowing the rules is. Nothing brings that point into sharp relief quite like getting a notice from Amazon that you are in violation of their policies. That’s exactly what happened to me recently. Failing to comply with Amazon’s policies can mean serious penalties up to and including losing your seller account, which is, quite frankly a terrifying prospect for anyone who makes their living selling used books online.

In this case, the violation had to do with my confirmation emails. I am in the practice of sending out an email whenever I ship a book, just to let the customer know that their books are on their way. It’s good customer service and doesn’t take much time once you develop a boilerplate message to send out. The issue was that in the signature of my email was the URL of my own website.

Now, these emails are only sent after the transaction is complete. I would never try and divert a customer from buying a book I had listed on Amazon to buy it from my own site instead. That is pretty much Amazon’s cardinal sin and if you get caught doing it, you can pretty much expect instant expulsion. The way I justified what I was doing was that the customer had already bought the book and Amazon had already got their cut. What was wrong with letting the customer know I also had an independent site after the sale was complete?

A lot.

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Sell Used Textbooks: It’s a Recession-Proof Business

by SellBooksBlogger

The business of selling used books can feel pretty risky sometimes, especially for new sellers. After all, you’re forgoing the security of a steady paycheck to go into business for yourself. A lot of people self-employed or small business owners are justifiably nervous, given the current state of the economy.

But according to an article published Friday in Business First of Columbus, at least one small business owner, Phil Smyres of Ohio, is feeling secure despite the recession. The good news? He does what we do. He sells used books.

Specifically, he sells used textbooks, both online and from his two brick-and-mortar locations. Smyres has been selling since 1993, and over all that time in the business, he’s learned that textbooks are a recession-proof business.

The article quotes him as saying “When times are good, there is more money for students to spend, when times are bad, more people go back to school.”

With 15-plus years of experience in the textbook business, he should know.

It makes good sense too, of course. While most readers don’t need books, to college students, textbooks are a necessity. They can’t just choose not to buy textbooks. It’s a captive market. As long as there are colleges, you will be able to make money selling used textbooks.

Smyres has another major observation that bodes well for booksellers. Although he sells both new and used textbooks, he says Read the rest of this entry »

Types of Books to Avoid as an Online Bookseller

by SellBooksBlogger

Knowing what kind of books to buy and what kinds to avoid is important. Dead inventory, even if you are culling regularly, is a drain on your time and resources. Even if you use a scanner, knowing where to focus your attention is a way better use of your time than randomly scanning every book that happens to be in front of you. It’s just part of the learning curve of becoming a bookseller.

The mentality of booksellers can get a little warped. Because the vast majority of booksellers are now online booksellers, they base their prices on what current market value of book is. I say this is “warped” because there isn’t recognition of what it is that consumer wants. Competition drives prices way below what customers are willing to pay, and as a result, booksellers end up selling books at prices that, to the consumer, are huge bargains.

Now we could talk all day about market forces and the definition of “value”, but the bottom line is that this devalueing of books means that the majority of online sellers will not want to consider buying those books for resale.
But after whole “blame game” there are books that generally stay away from. They are:

  • Most mass market paperbacks/pocket books (you might do ok if you get them really cheap at a bag sale)
  • Encyclopedias
  • Most American English dictionaries (Webster’s et al)
  • Condensed/Readers Digests
  • Most recent fiction – trade hardcovers
  • Most paperback children’s books
  • Textbooks more than 3-4 yrs old
  • Vast majority of books published from 1940’s-1980’s (even the 90’s to some degree)

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Used Books are Green: “It’s Like Carpooling for Books”

by SellBooksBlogger

Sell books - It's green! Selling used books is, by its very nature, environmentally friendly. Obviously books are made of paper. Every book that is created has an environmental impact both in terms of trees being cut down, and in terms of the fossil fuels burned in manufacturing, shipping, etc. Every time a person buys a used book instead of a new one, it chips away at those impacts.

According to this article on, “world consumption of paper has grown four hundred percent in the last 40 years” and “nearly 4 billion trees or 35% of the total trees cut around the world are used in paper industries”. It goes on to quote an EPA report that found that “pulp and paper mills are among the worst polluters to air, water and land of any industry”. Obviously anything we can do to reduce this environmental devastation is a great thing for the planet.

Despite the environmental costs of making books, there is an environmental upshot to the nature of books. Books aren’t perishable or depletable , they never “go bad” and you can use them without “using them up”. In fact, books can be used again and again by as many people as can get their hands on them. As sellers of used books, we are facilitating that process, finding new homes for books.

Whether they knew it or not, used bookstores were green before it was cool. The advent of online sellers like you and me just Read the rest of this entry »