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I still practice this principle at the bookstores in my area, where I recently bartered for a set of 20 signed Franklin Press books. However, with the advent of the digital age late last century, you no longer need to depend on the whims and preferences of your local bookshop in order to trade in your stock for store credit. No, today you can trade books in from the comfort of your home. While many open shop owners may understandably cringe at this notion, I implore all of my fellow Clicks and Mortar booksellers to view the stale inventory on your shelves as prime candidates of conversion to cash using Bookscouter. I did this with some of the books that have been collecting dust at my antique mall booths and proceeded to raise several hundred dollars cash in a few days time. I would also contend that using BookScouter is a great way to make it easier to part with and let go of your inventory which no longer meets your minimum listing price requirements, as you should be glad about at least getting something right now for a book instead of waiting another year or two and hoping the book will sell.

Amazon is the only site where receiving cash is not an option; instead receiving an Amazon Gift Card is the sole means of reimbursement. For me, this is pretty much the same thing as cash, as I frequently spend quite a bit of time and money on the site. Little did Ellis know when he first wrote Book Finds that he would one day be able to trade in his unsalable stock for a new mesh grill cover, a case of aspartame-free chewing gum and a digital version of his own book! In a delightful twist of fate, I was also recently able to purchase a copy of one of the most sought after books on my Amazon Wish List - Billy Collins Pokerface, his first and rarest book of poems, limited to 400 copies, a handful of which (rumor has it) that Collins himself has purchased from their owners at signing events only to destroy; apparently he is not too proud of this one). I had over $400 sitting in my account when a copy became available for around $275. Sounds expensive? Do a search on BookFinder for and tell me if you think I paid too much. The problem is I don't know if I'll be able to part with this one until it has been on my shelf for at least another year or two. Sometimes being a book collector can be dangerous for one's own bookselling career.

You may or may not have already noticed this, but just below the "23 Used and New from $16.02" on the right hand side of any Amazon Product Detail page for a book, you may see some text that reads, "Get a $5.93 Amazon Gift Card," with a button that reads, "Trade in Here." Clicking this will redirect you to "Sign In to Your Account," and then finally to the "Submit Your Trade-In" page, where you can continue to add books that Amazon (or NORAM, the New Hampshire based company responsible for the buybacks) is currently buying and view their Terms and Conditions. The process varies slightly among all of the sites, but once you do it a few times, you'll get the hang of it and get into some kind of rhythm, and hopefully maintain some semblance of organization.

Most of the sites seem to keep your items in a buyback cart, but I have been timed out on occasion, so the best strategy is to use BookScouter to sort your potential candidates into several piles, and once your pile is big enough to fill a bankers box (with a few extras in case the book is no longer being purchased), you should process the entire buyback at one time. All this usually involves is submitting the entire contents of the buyback, printing a confirmation/packing slip and printing a prepaid shipping label. The final steps are to then tightly and securely pack the contents of the box, adding some filler / bubble wrap as needed and finally, sealing the box and affixing the prepaid shipping label.

With Powells.com (3.5 out of 5, with 112 ratings), Major League Buyback site #2, you have the option to choose between receiving store credit or cash. They typically offer quite a bit more in credit, something along the lines of $45 in cash will be good for $75 in credit. I am usually a sucker for credit and recently used this to purchase several signed hypermodern 1sts, along with a handful of books from Anne Rice's personal library. Yeah, you heard me right. Check out their homepage for more details.

Sell your books to Powell's

A quick note on Powell's- they are the pickiest site as far as condition goes. There is a recent spate of comments regarding just how picky they have become, and as a bookseller, I can sympathize with their position. Make sure to check the guidelines for condition anywhere you send books. Amazon will actually return books that don't meet their requirements (at no cost to you), but Powell's will not be so kind and will simply donate the rejects to a local charity. For the most part, Powell's will accept books in VG+ condition and above. They do not accept book club editions, books with hinges that are beginning to split, any sort of dampstaining or any writing or highlighting in the text. A previous owner's name written on the front endpapers is acceptable, however. Make sure you are able to identify these types of books and are familiar with some basic bookselling condition lingo before you start sending pallets. I have also found that Powell's will buy back quite a few books that no other sites will, most likely due to their having several brick and mortar locations. Dover Books seem to do well here.

You can view their condition guidelines here. condition_guidelines.html#bce].

The rest of the major and minor leaguers pay cash via PayPal (and other methods), and these are my favorites to use:

  • Collegebooksdirect.com (4.5 stars with 24 ratings)- Great for paperback classics and literary fiction. Expect $3 for a PB copy of Jeannette Walls' gut-wrenching memoir Glass Castle. I was in the habit of passing up books like this one all the time, but now I am more likely to purchase a copy for a quarter at a garage sale, or as part of a larger buyout. This is my favorite of the cash only websites.

  • Textbooks.com (4.5 stars with 35 ratings) - They tend to pay more than most of the other sites, including Collegebooksdirect, but I also noticed that they take a bit longer to pay you. As long as you're not in a hurry to get paid, this is one of the better buyback sites.

  • Better World Books (3.5 stars with 19 ratings) - my least favorite of the buyback sites. Like many other booksellers out there discussed after the featured article in Americana Exchange, I have had my fair share of gripes with their business model- masquerading as a non-profit and lowballing the competition on Amazon. I know enough now to ignore their prices when determining my own, but I do have a bit of a problem with the way they process buybacks on their site. They give you a countdown of 10 minutes when listing books, stating that their offer is only good until the clock expires, which might put a bit of unnecessary pressure on the average Joe. The prices turn out to still be good after time expires, but what you may not notice is that a book that they are no longer buying is not rejected like all of the other sites clearly indicate but is instead included in the shipment and marked as a "Donation." I would suspect that most people would not want to donate a book to a for-profit company when they might get cold hard cash for it at another site. Having said all that, I have sent several shipments to Better World Books, and although they don't pay as much, they do accept textbooks that many other sites won't.

    The Minor Leagues of Book Buybacks: 5 Additional Websites I Have Successfully Shipped To:

  • ValoreBooks (3 out of 5 stars with 9 ratings) - I've sold more to their site than I have sold listing on their site.

  • CKY Books (4.5 out of 5 stars with 155 ratings) - The Triple A league of the minors. Right up there with College Books Direct and Textbooks.com, as their high ratings indicates.

  • TextBooksRUS.com (4 out of 5 stars with 70 ratings) - Aspiring to be the Toys R Us of books.

  • Bookbyte (3 out of 5 stars with 52 ratings) - They seem to pay about $.75 for every book they buy. At these prices I'm usually wondering, "Why Bother?"

  • BookJingle (4 out 5 stars with 17 ratings) - Merry Christmas, you've got cash!

    One time-saving trick to mention in this article is that while you are waiting for the BookScouter site to retrieve the prices, you can begin typing in the ISBN of the next book in your pile and then simply hit return after you have evaluated the results of the original book and continue this process until your entire stack of candidates have been sorted.

    My last secret to mention is that as of this writing, almost any PB or HC book my Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Outliers) seem to consistently sell in the $4.50 range.

    As is the case with most bookselling software these days, there are IPhone and Android applications available. I have used the Android application many times in the field but often wish there was a faster way of getting the data. MediaScouter has spoiled me I suppose, but as Brandon reminded me, this information is not live and is pulled from the Amazon pricing database on the SD card of my scanner. Oh, and did I mention that the application and the website are both free to use! He did note that I should try the application with a USB scanner, as the scanner on my phone is linked on the camera, and requires quite a bit of fidgeting with the light in the room, as well as the angle in which it is positioned.

    Make sure to check out the BookScouter blog as well, as Brandon has some other exciting applications in the works for booksellers in the future, some of which are geared towards FBA sellers. Brandon is leaving his full-time job working for, you guessed it, a textbook company, to focus all of his efforts on his programming and web development ventures. I'm excited to see what kind of tricks he has for us up his sleeve in the future. He was very personable on the phone, and it sounds like he has quite a technical bookselling operation of his own going. I can tell that he enjoyed talking books and mentioned that he would personally answer any emails about the site. He is always looking to make improvements and thinking of ideas to develop into software which will help online booksellers and poor college students - second cousins, really.

    Remember, don't became a slave to BookScouter, as checking price information on Amazon and Abebooks should usually be your first option, unless you are quite certain the book is common. On one occasion, I got in the zone and put a book in the Amazon pile for $2.75, only to luckily catch my mistake minutes later and realize that the exact same book could be listed on Amazon for about $200!

    I look forward to sharing this article with all of you on BookThink's Facebook page, and would appreciate any comments or feedback you have on the article. I hope it helps you to supplement your regular online bookselling income with a little bit of extra cash, or some credit to help you trade up your common stock.

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