Declutter Your Bookshelf and Fatten Your Wallet

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If you’re living in a small space, just graduated, getting ready to relocate or just need to clear off some shelf space, maybe it’s time to sell your used books.

When you’re not in the mood to schlep your volumes to the local used bookstore, there are some great online sites that will buy your paperbacks, hardcovers, and textbooks—and even pay for the shipping, if you’re selling more than a few. It won’t make you rich, but you’ll clear out the clutter and pocket some nice change in the process.

I just offloaded 15 fiction and nonfiction books that were collecting dust … and made $60 in return. Here’s how:

Woman with books and computer

Select Your Books

Most sites look for gently used books without tears, stains, loose pages, broken spines, writing/highlighting (some textbook buyback sites make exceptions), or, in the case of hardcovers, missing dustjackets.

  • Book club editions (which tend to be larger or smaller than regular editions and are usually missing the price) and mass-market paperbacks (bodice-ripper titles, John Grisham, etc.) are usually rejected by book dealers. Donate them to your local library or offer them up on Freecycle. The same goes for uncorrected proofs and former library books.

Collect Your ISBNs

Book buyback sites determine the value of your books by their International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, which is generally a 10-digit number found on the back of the book above the bar code.

  • After you’ve selected your books, type your ISBNs into a document on your computer, separating each by a return. This way, when you’re asked to enter your ISBN numbers into a site, you can simply copy them from your document and paste them in bulk into the ISBN box. This is the most time-consuming part of selling your books, but it’s a mindless task that’s best done in front of the TV.

Shop for the Best Price

If you’re willing to search for the best price for each individual book you’re selling, try BookScouter.com. The site claims to search “all available sites” that will buy your book and returns the best buyback prices. The one downside is that the process is a little tedious: you must enter ISBN numbers one at a time; even if you’re selling a number of books, the system does not allow you to enter the ISBN numbers in bulk. Some of the most popular buyback sites that allow you price a number of books at once include:

Sites specifically dealing in textbooks that have easy-to-use ISBN entries include:

Pack Your Books

After you’ve decided to sell your books with a dealer, they’ll email you a pre-paid shipping label. Make sure you pack your books carefully: If they’re damaged during transit, the buyer is not obligated to purchase them, nor return them. You’re out of books, and out of luck.

  • Never pack your books in newspaper—the ink will transfer to the books and smudge the covers.
  • Read the buyer’s site for additional shipping tips, especially if you’re shipping multiple boxes.

Wait for Payment

Most packages are shipped via U.S. Media Mail and can take up to a few weeks to arrive at their destination. It may take an additional week or so for your order to be processed. Once processed, you’ll be notified of your payment and usually paid via PayPal. Enjoy your new funds and your spankin’ clear shelf space!

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