I’m Brandon, and UsedBooksSell.com is my blog about the media aftermarket.
As a father of three, already working a full time job, I wasn’t sure there was anything I could do to increase my income, much less start my own business. Who knew that my love of books, toys, and obscure boardgames could translate into a profitable side business? While the book trade isn’t a get rich quick scheme, for someone heavy on entrepreneurial fire and light on start up capital, it’s a great way to get started working for yourself and add a little extra to the monthly budget.
Some of my fellow book hunters are tight-lipped about their methods, but I can’t keep a secret. I love sharing my adventures as I continue to expand, evolve, and streamline my business.
I also review the tools I use to run my business, write articles on book collecting and building a personal library, and profile some of the more obscure and fabulous treasures I acquire for my store. Essentially, I’m trying to create a one-stop resource, packed with information on all things books.
But before we dive into the minutea of book reselling. Lets start by explaining the basics.
How exactly am I making money here?
As a book hunter, I visit the places where used books accumulate: private thrift stores, Goodwill, The Salvation Army, church sales, and moving sales. While some books do find new owners in these places, hearty browsers willing to sift the stacks in search of something to read, most will sit on a cluttered shelf until discarded or recycled. Not the end most books are dreaming of as they come off the line at the printers.
Book Hunters (sometimes called book scouters or book scanners) know that individual book values vary wildly, although used books are usually offered for as little as a dollar each, or less! Book hunters use a hand held scanner or the camera feature on their smart phone to read the information on a book’s barcode. This information is plugged into a database to determine the books resale value. If the book is worth more then price it is being offered at, the book hunter rescues it from its secluded bin and lists it online where shoppers can easily find it. After all, how is a buyer in Akron supposed to know the rare book he wants is at a flea market in Tallahassee?
This is the literary treasure hunt.
This process keeps perfectly good books out of the recycling bin, generates business and clears valuable shelf space for sale organizers, provides books to buyers online at a significant discount, and allows the book hunter to profit from his labor.
It’s a win, win, win, win situation.
But of course there is more to it then that. While a book’s barcode is a terrific resource for finding profitable books, this would be a very short blog indeed if that was the whole story. With that in mind, here are three of my most valuable tips that will take you 80 percent of the way to becoming a pro book hunter.
First, and foremost, we use a free website called BookScouter.
Bookscouter lets us instantly comparison shop buyback offers on any book, just by typing in the book’s ISBN. While we may know a good piece of genre fiction just by looking at it, we could walk right past a highly regarded book on dentistry or horticulture or some other topic outside our area of expertise. Bookscouter lets us identify these valuable books on the fly while we’re on the hunt.
Most of the buyback companies listed on Bookscouter offer free shipping labels and quick payment through PayPal, making it easy to cash in on gently used books. Once we know what a book is going for on the wholesale market, we can better determine if it’s worth acquiring for the shop. Every book we buy gets checked here first.
Bookscouter isn’t just for booksellers. Anyone looking to thin a collection, sell last year’s textbooks, or who is curious about the aftermarket value of a particular book can make use of this terrific site.
Curious about how it works? Pull a book down from your shelf and find out exactly what it’s worth.
We also use a bluetooth scanner to help us work more efficiently. Entering all those ISBNs manually takes a lot of time, but our scanner, the Socket Mobile 8Ci, does it in less then a second. The bluetooth scanner zaps the book’s barcode and inputs the ISBN directly into the Bookscouter app on our smartphone.
As well as helping us identify valuable books, its long reach keeps us off our toes when searching the top shelves and off the floor when we are searching deep on the bottom shelf. Acquiring this scanner was the single best investment we made in our business and we couldn’t imagine book hunting with out it.
Here’s our direct link to details and pricing for the Socket Mobile 8Ci.
The last secret, and the one people usually find surprising, is that you know more about books then you think. Often, a book of worth stands out. It’s well made, well designed, and attractive. It’s the book your hand naturally gravitates to while browsing. While we’ve found many valuable books with plain covers, and many gorgeous lemons, the subtle, nearly subconscious desire to reach out and pull a book down from the shelf is a terrific indicator that others will want to do this too.
For even more tips, secrets, and anecdotal stories about the used book trade, check out our blog!
All the best!