Economics of Books

by Berck

So, it turns out that used books are worth almost nothing, unless, of course, you want to buy them.

Dad’s been sending us a lot of his books, so we’ve been trying to make room by selling books we don’t want. Most of the books we don’t want are going for $0.01 on Amazon. It turns out it’s not profitable to sell books for $0.01 on Amazon unless you sell at least 40 books per month, because:

Amazon charges $2.34 commission on the sale of a $0.01 book. They also charge the buyer $3.99 for shipping, which they pass on to you. This means that you get a total of $1.66. If the book weighs more than 3 ounces, it will cost more than $1.66 to ship the book. If you’re a pro-seller, you can pay them $39.99/month, and they’ll waive $0.99 of that that $2.34. That means you then have to ship the book for less than $2.65, which is totally doable. But we’re not pro sellers, so we went looking for a good used book store.

(Note, here, that if you’re looking to buy used books on Amazon, even $0.01 books will cost you $4.00 because of the $3.99 shipping. Which is why you can often do better at a place like Half Price. But you have to go there. And pay tax.)

Half Price books only pays pennies on the dollar for books they buy from you, but they’ll at least accept anything, even if they’re only going to recycle it. Unfortunately, there are no Half Price Books in Colorado, apparently because of a trademark issue. So we went to the Book Rack, which appeared to be our best bet. (Amusingly, we bought a book from Half Price in Oklahoma that had, at some point, been sold by the Book Rack in Colorado Springs, according to the stamp inside.)

We brought a box of 25 books to the Book Rack. They were willing to buy 3 of them for $3.00, or give us $9 in-store credit for them. The in-store credit has a catch, though, and you can only use 50% of the in-store credit on any purchase. We roamed around the store and managed to find 6 books we wanted, for a total of about $18, costing us a total of $9.

Goal: Get rid of some books.
Actual Result: We brought 25 books to the Book Rack, and left with 28 books and $9 poorer. I’m not sure we succeeded.

2 Responses to “Economics of Books”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I was at Dirt Cheap and bought 4 hardback books, that are pretty popular reads, each costing me $1. I bought these planning to trade them in at the Book Rack in Saraland. Little did I know that they trade 2 for 1. And he said that he would only give me enough to get paperback books. His reasoning was confusing for my poor brain. I thought I could just traded them in, 1 for 1. Hmph. I wasn’t mad, just confused and disappointed. And I ended up getting books that I could have done without, and also ended up spending $7. It was a mess and I haven’t been back. The library is working out quite well for me, thank you very much! :) And as long as I remember to turn them in, it is free. I place holds on them online from my kitchen, then pick them up when they call to let me know they are in. SWEET!!! AND – they don’t take up a bunch of room I don’t have in my house.

  2. Berck Says:

    Yeah, you can’t exactly run a business on 1:1 trades. 2:1 is pretty much the standard, and was a bit surprised when I couldn’t do *that*, instead having to spend some real money to get value from the books I bought. Rachel needs to open a Half Price here.

Leave a Reply