We all have heard stories about how someone bought a rare book for a dirt cheap price and made thousands of dollars off it. Makes you want to dive into that stack of old dirty books lying on the ground in a thrift store, doesn’t it? But soon you realize that those stories are as rare as the books featured in them, something not likely to happen to everyone.
That being said, there are still professionals out there who are earning a living doing just that — book hunting. Depending on how skilled you are, it can be a really profitable venture, especially if you do book scouting with the ISBN barcode scanner. So let’s figure out how to become a used book hunter.
How to start
First, to get a feel of how it works, start from your own house. Get rid of unwanted books or books that you do not intend on reading. Not every book will have a value and thus you might have to send some to charity, but in this way, you will begin to understand what type of books hold a value and which ones to avoid.
Now, there are several websites that purchase used books, so you must check out a few to find out the best offer. Alternatively, you can register as a seller on an online marketplace.
Once you are on a website, you’ll be asked to enter a 10-digit ISBN number, which you can easily find on the book. The site will then offer a price for your book, all you have to do is pick the highest offer and ship the book to them.
Most websites pay for shipping themselves. So in that case, you just need to print out a pre-paid shipping label from their site and post your books to them. Within a couple of weeks, you should receive a cheque back in your mail or even a deposit to your PayPal account, depending on your preferences.
How to find books with a resale value
In today’s world, it’s quite simple to find a book with a good resale value if you are familiar with the right tools. First of all, you need to find a place that has books on sale, it can be a local flea market, some garage sale or even the annual sales organized by a public library. Once there, finding the right book is easy, all you need is your smartphone and a working internet connection.
There are a number of mobile apps available that allow you to find the value of a book by entering the ISBN number or scanning a barcode. After this the decision is easy. If the book can be sold for a healthy profit, it’s a good buy. Also note that if the said book is a signed copy, you can sell it for a higher price as a ‘collector’s item’.
Things get a little complicated with rare books; most of these are old, belonging to the pre-ISBN era. So you need to do a little research online, comparing the prices for which it has been recently sold, to figure out if it’s a good buy, and also to decide the ideal selling price. For example, if a book has been sold for anything from $70-$120, you can easily fetch $100 for it.
Ways to make money
In general, there are two ways in which you can make money. One, by selling books for a high margin, and the other, by selling them for lower margins. Let us discuss both of them briefly.
This is what most of the hunters initially plan to do, i.e. trying to find rare or collectible books which can be sold for a profit of over $30. Now although this high margin per piece may look like a jackpot, in reality, the chances of finding such an item are slim. Therefore, after a few months of book hunting, most will switch to the second method.
This is where the real money is. By selling books which have a lower margin for profit, you are not only increasing sales but also making it regular. Imagine buying books at 25 cents apiece at a garage sale and selling them for $4-$6 each. Now the profit per piece here might be lower, but you’ll make up for it in the number of books sold. As a famous man once said ‘Quantity is a quality in itself’.
Used book hunting is an art, and you are not the Picasso of it. But that should not stop you from being successful. With the right tools and a bit of luck, you should do as good as everyone else, if not better.