The Complete Guide to Selling Textbooks on Amazon
Every seller on Amazon is aware that Amazon is the largest ecommerce business in the world. With revenues approaching $300 billion annually, Amazon sells basically every product a customer can imagine. Although Amazon is famous for its vast selection, it’s largest category is still its first category: books. With over 40 million books to select from, Amazon is the first place customers go to for any type of book. Virtually every book reseller and retailer uses Amazon to some capacity because it has the demand from readers. Many sellers already sell some type of books on Amazon; more specifically, selling textbooks is one of the most lucrative niches on Amazon. Due to factors like ease of sourcing, seasonality and more, textbooks can be one of the most profitable niches for sellers to get involved in.
Why are textbooks so lucrative?
Price: It’s no secret that textbooks are very expensive. Students from all types of schools spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on books every year. This is a huge opportunity for sellers because if they can find a textbook for a low price, they can net a huge profit. Since textbooks cost much more than other types of books, the ROI, profit margins and sales are generally higher in comparison to other books. It may take normal book sellers hundreds of books to get a thousand dollars in sales, while textbook sellers may reach that figure with just a handful of books. Additionally, customers who buy textbooks on Amazon are willing to pay these prices because their schools are charging them much more.
Demand: The textbook niche is also valuable because of its demand. Year in and year out, the demand for textbooks remains very high because schools require students to have these textbooks to participate in class. Although there are trends towards digital textbooks, the demand for physical textbooks remains very high. With the beginning of the fall and spring semester, demand is at incredible rates. Even after accounting for seasonality, demand for textbooks is generally high year round.
Ease of sourcing: Textbooks are a great way to sell on Amazon because they are relatively easy to find. It’s highly likely that you are sitting on a few hundred dollars worth of textbooks in your home. You can easily list these textbooks and use the money from the sales to source for more textbooks.
Different ways to sell: Textbooks are also very lucrative because there are a ton of ways to sell them. Since there are many marketplaces for books and different ways to sell each of them, you can choose the most profitable option for you. Some of the different ways to sell textbooks include:
Sell directly on Amazon: Selling directly on Amazon to customers is the best way to get a textbook sold fast and it’s also the easiest. When you sell textbooks directly on Amazon, you can ship them to an Amazon warehouse and Amazon will handle the rest of the customer service. Selling directly on Amazon will often be the fastest way to sell textbooks because it’s the marketplace with the highest demand. There’s more competition on Amazon because other sellers are selling the same textbooks as you, but all the textbooks will be sold eventually. This is likely the best option for most sellers.
These are some of the popular buyback programs amongst book sellers.
Buyback programs: Using textbook buybacks are another underrated option for sellers to sell textbooks. Buyback programs are companies that will pay textbook owners cash for their textbooks. There are a ton of buyback programs in the U.S. and you can compare each one to see which vendor will offer the best price for your textbook. A good resource to use is Bookscouter linked here. It’s a free search tool that you can use to see the different prices you can list a textbook for on Amazon and other buyback programs.
With buyback programs, you can get a quote for the textbooks you have. Once you get the quote, you can ship your textbooks to the company and they’ll generally send you the money for the textbook in 1-2 weeks. It’s important to do your research on which companies are good for book buybacks because they can take several weeks to a month to send money. Bookscouter has reviews for the different buyback programs, so check that out before you send your textbooks to anyone.
If you really want to get advanced with buybacks, you can buyback arbitrage. That’s basically when you get a quote from a buyback program for a textbook and you can go shop for that textbook for a lower price. Bookscouter has this feature, but you’ll have to sign up for a paid subscription to get access to arbitrage opportunities. This is a good opportunity for experienced book sellers; for new sellers, it’s more important to just get the basics down of buyback programs.
Rent: Many online book retailers can allow you to rent the textbooks you have to students. Generally, you will make far less renting the book out instead of selling it. The books that are best for renting are probably high end textbooks ($200+) because you can get the rent from the student and keep the value of the book at the end of the semester. This is a good option for experienced book sellers who can manage their inventory well. For most sellers, renting their books out can be a hassle. You’ll really have to niche down and focus on renting books in order to make a significant amount of money, but the option is still available if you’re interested.
Where can you find textbooks?
Now that we have covered the different ways sellers can sell textbooks, let’s explore where textbooks can be sourced.
Homes: The first place you should check for textbooks is your home. Since the textbooks in your home are free inventory, it’s best to start out with those and ship them to Amazon. There’s easily $100 worth of textbooks in most homes and this can be used to buy more textbooks after you make sales on Amazon.
Immediate network: Many sellers have family members or friends in college. Reaching out to them and offering them some money for their textbooks can be a good idea. Many people underestimate the value of their textbooks, so you can get a good deal for them.
College campuses: If you really want to make a profit with textbooks, you can try reaching out directly to college students for their textbooks. This is time-intensive, especially if you’re visiting campuses. You can target groups within colleges or message college students online in your area to see if they’re interested in selling their textbooks. There are a lot of creative ways to do this, you’ll have to explore which methods are the most cost-effective for you.
Craigslist: Craigslist is a great place to find textbooks. Depending on the city you live in, the options for textbooks may be more or less. If you live in a big metropolitan area, you’ll have a lot of access to quality textbooks to source. Also, you can negotiate with people on the cost of a textbook. On Craigslist, there’s a free option where you can check what locals in your area are selling for free. Oftentimes, books are also included in the free category. Check the books out and see if they sell on Amazon; if they do, you can get them and send them into Amazon.
Facebook marketplace: Facebook marketplace is another great option to find textbooks. With Facebook marketplace, you can browse what textbooks people are selling and you can even ask them to ship it to you if you live in a different city. Many people on Facebook offer textbooks at low prices and this is an opportunity for higher margins. Facebook users will often post pictures of their books and you can see how far they are from you. Many sellers leverage Facebook marketplace to get good deals in their areas and increase their profit margins.
eBay: eBay is a great place to find textbooks. Many textbook owners are not aware they can sell directly on Amazon, so they opt to sell on eBay instead. On eBay, sellers can use auctions and you are able to directly message sellers and negotiate on price. eBay has tons of listings per textbook, so it’s easier to find and get good deals. One thing you’ll have to be aware when buying on eBay is shipping times. It may take longer for your book to arrive depending on the seller, make sure you’re aware of this prior to making a purchase.
Try online arbitrage tools: An extremely underrated method of finding textbooks is using online arbitrage software programs. Online arbitrage software allows sellers to scan retail websites and see any opportunities to resell products at a higher price. You can use this to sell textbooks also. For example, an online arbitrage tool can scan all the books in Barnes & Noble and see which books you can resell on Amazon at a higher price. This is a lucrative opportunity for sellers, but it’s important to note that most online arbitrage will require you to pay a monthly fee to use them.
Things to consider regarding selling textbooks:
Seasonality: Seasonality is an important factor when selling textbooks. Generally the beginning of each semester (fall, spring and summer) are when the textbooks are at their peak demand. The following months after a semester begins are also relatively good. There are a few months where textbooks have decreased demand, but you’ll definitely still be able to make sales. If you source textbooks near the beginning of a semester, waiting a few weeks can make a huge difference in your profit margins. The peak of textbook sales is the later weeks in August all the way up to the second week of school. The demand is similar, but a little less around the first few weeks of the second semester.
Condition: Textbook prices will vary depending on the condition of the textbook. It’s almost rare to get your hands on a new textbook that is actually profitable. It’s best to avoid this in general because you simply won’t be able to compete with Amazon on price for new books. Most of the textbooks you will be selling will be in a used condition. The prices for used books are significantly less than new books, but you can still make a healthy profit. Textbooks that are fulfilled by Amazon are prime-eligible and they can list for higher prices than merchant-fulfilled textbooks. The newer the condition of the book, the more you can charge generally. This is a small variation, you can’t charge double the price of the competition if your condition is better because customers simply won’t buy it.
Additionally, it’s important to be conservative when mentioning the condition of your book on Amazon. Some of the different conditions you can label your textbook include new, used-like new, used-good, used-acceptable and more. Whatever you think your book is, choose a conservative definition because customers will leave bad reviews for you if you overhype the condition of your book. In contrast, if they are surprisingly satisfied with the condition of your book, you are far more likely to get a positive review.
This covers the basics around sourcing, selling and finding opportunities with textbooks. You can get started with selling textbooks for free today by scanning the ones in your house and sending them to Amazon. You can use textbooks as a stepping stone to sell other products on Amazon. This is one of the best ways for new sellers to get started and become familiar with Amazon’s ecosystem. To learn how to ship these textbooks to Amazon, check out this blog here.