Aug 11, 2005

Selling Your Used Books

A few years ago, when my husband and I moved, I tried to sell a bag full of books at a used book store. The owner looked inside the bag, commented on the great condition of all the books, but declined to buy them because he didn't need them. Since then, I've discovered that the easiest way to get rid of my unwanted books (other than donating them to the library) is to sell them on's Marketplace. You can sell other things on Amazon, but I've only sold books, CDs, and DVDs.

The easiest way to list an item is to use the ISBN, UPC or ASIN number that is on the bar code of a book, CD or DVD. It's unique to that item so you won't have to search through various results to find the exact item you want to sell. Once you've found a match, you select the condition of your item (New, Like New, Very Good, Good, or Acceptable) and enter a comment (the comment is not required but I recommend it, particularly if the item is not listed as new). Setting a price is fairly easy. Amazon tells you what its own price is, as well as the lowest Marketplace price, so you can decide where you want to fall in that range.

Amazon provides shipping credits, which differ depending on the item you're selling (you get $2.26 for books). The shipping credit is supposed to cover the mailing costs, although with heavier items it sometimes is not enough and you have to cover the difference through the amount you received from the buyer. The items that I sell can all be shipped by USPS Media Mail, and usually ship for less than the amount of the shipping credit that I receive. Amazon does charge a small commission, so make sure you're going to make at least something before you list your item for a really low price.

Amazon requires that you ship the item within 2 business days of the purchase, which can sometimes be a problem if you have trouble getting to the post office. For my own privacy and protection of my identity, I rented a post office box to use as my return address (I made enough money from book sales to cover that cost within two weeks). I think it's a good practice to email the buyer to let them know their item is on the way.

I'm no tax expert (so see a professional if you have any questions), but my understanding is that my Amazon sales are taxable income only if I'm making a profit - for example, if I bought a book with the intention of selling it, then any gain from that sale would be taxable. But if I'm just selling a book that I no longer want to keep, it's as if I sold it at a garage sale to get rid of it.

I've been surprised at what's sold - Star Trek and Star Wars novels that I didn't want to reread, one of my husband's college textbooks, even an old Nine Inch Nails CD single. Baby books have sold very quickly - in fact, I felt a surge of sympathy for the man who ordered a book on baby sleep with expedited shipping.

All of your Marketplace earnings can be transferred by direct deposit to your checking account. So if you have unwanted books, CDs, or DVDs, give's Marketplace a try.

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