What to Do with Used Books: Earn Money, Get Books or Have Fun with Old Books

For reading lovers, books can easily become an expensive and space-consuming passion. While it’s tempting to hold on to good books “just in case,” it’s better to really only keep around books that might realistically be read again. A helpful way to encourage a good purge is to build up a large “to be read” shelf. A reminder of just how many great *new* books are waiting to be read can lend some perspective to the need to keep ones that have already been finished.

But many book-collecting “addicts” keep the books around for lack of something better to do with them than just giving them away. Here are some ideas that might be motivating.

Amazon Marketplace Sales

By entering the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) of a book, usually found on the back of the book or the back of the title page, specific editions of books can be looked up on Amazon.com. If the book has a used price of $5 or more, it might be worth selling through Amazon Marketplace. Signing up for a marketplace account is easy and Amazon provides a shipping and packaging allowance.

For books with less than $5 sales value, unless they are particularly light, it’s not usually worth it as Amazon takes relatively high a commission on the sale (“power” sellers get discounts and make enough profit on volume that they can afford to sell at these prices). Generally most mass market paperbacks, unless just released, will not make sense to sell this way, but many trade paperbacks, non-fiction books, and textbooks can be worth money. The combination of clearing space and getting paid for it has obvious benefits!

Online Book Swapping

Online book swapping is great because it is environmentally-friendly, helps books fulfill their destiny by finding them a new owner who is specifically looking for them and maybe best of all for the avid reader, provides access to nearly-free new books. Book swapping online generally involves creating some sort of inventory list, some sort of want or wish list, and paying postage when sending books (rare sites involve paying postage when receiving books, but for most, receiving costs only credit earned from sending books).


BookCrossing is a fun way to add life to used books. Users go to BookCrossing.com and print out labels with unique ID numbers that are added to the book. Then books can be strategically planted – in coffee shops, airplane seat pockets, park benches or anyplace someone might find them. When they find the BookCrossing label, it asks them to login to the site, enter the ID number and update the status of the book.

Users have found books that have travelled to other countries and had all sorts of unique adventures. The BookCrossing account keeps track of all the books “caught” and “released” by the user and keeps track of where the book has traveled and comments about the book made by subsequent readers. Fun!

Used books can be much more than space hogs and dust collectors. With a few simple steps, book collectors can turn books into cash, more books or virtual adventures.