The article that is too good to be true: Ten proven places to find free books to resell for big profits on Amazon.
Video: 10 (consistent) free book sources
Free books are everywhere
The idea of free inventory is a hard one for a lot of Amazon sellers to believe: There are massive amounts of unwanted, free books out there that have resale value on Amazon.
The idea that people would just give away profitable books brings up objections like:
- Why would someone give something away that had value?
- Why wouldn’t they sell the books on Amazon themselves?
- If something is free, it must be flawed or defective in some way.
Before I get into a list of places to find free books, I’m going to make this easier for you by obliterating any disbelief over how easy this is.
Three reasons there so many books free for the taking
#1: Perceived value vs actual value
Among the top reasons books are the best category to sell on Amazon is their low perceived value.
For everything bought, sold, and traded in a free market; there are two types of value: actual value and perceived value.
Perceived value is the value assumed by the owner of the product. What is the value that society assumes this type of product to have?
Actual value is what people are actually willing to pay. How much money are people actually willing to trade for this product?
The bigger the gap between these two, the more opportunities there are to find them cheap and resell at a profit. And books have a huge gap between their perceived and actual value. In the 2nd hand market, it’s common for books for a used book to sell for 50 cents, when its value (as expressed by sales prices on Amazon) can be $20.
To take the other extreme, consider the gap between the perceived and actual value of a product like DVDs. It’s common to see them priced at $3 on the 2nd hand market, when the brand new price (let’s set aside the used value) can be $8. The perceived value of DVDs is very close to its actual value.
#2: Books are cumbersome
Books are heavy. Books take up space. Books are difficult to move.
If you’re a person, business, or non-profit that deals with books; they’re probably the first thing you want to unburden yourself of – simply because they are so unwieldy.
#3 The world is drowning in books
Nice couches are cumbersome too, but you’re not going to find them for free everywhere. The difference is that couches are scarce, while books are abundant.
Extremely, ridiculously, obnoxiously abundant. Libraries get more book sale donations than they have space for. Thrift stores have the same problem. And the average person has hundreds of thousands of dollars of used books they don’t want in closets and garages.
The world is drowning in books.
I mention all this to assuage any disbelief around the opportunity in finding tons of free books that you can sell profit. Free books are everywhere. Lots of people want to get rid of them. And by taking them, you are performing a service.
Now, let’s get into the reasons you came here: 10 sources of free books to sell on Amazon…
Ten places to find free books to sell on Amazon
We’ll start with four online sources, then move on to six offline sources…
#1: “Buy-Sell-Trade” Facebook groups
There are a bazillion Facebook groups that exist for people to (drum roll…) buy, sell, and trade literally anything – from children’s clothes to electronics to toys. That includes books.
These groups are usually local in scope, and will be easy to find by searching “<town name> buy sell trade” or some variation thereof.
Group rules will vary, but these are prime places to post that you will “pick up unwanted books for free.”
Sidebar: Should you reveal you’re a book reseller when asking for free books?
Before we go any further with this online book sources segment, one question that comes up often is exactly how much you should reveal when you’re soliciting free books.
On one end, there are people who think you should be 1000% forthright, and simply state you want free books to resell. On the other, people who reveal no details, and simply offer to pick up unwanted books (or some variation of the truth, like calling themselves “book recyclers.”)
Choose your own approach, but here’s mine: I advertise simply “I plan to keep the books I want, make sure to find good homes for the ones I don’t, and recycle only as a last resort.” It’s honest (I keep a lot of books that I acquire to resell for my personal collection), though the percentage of books I keep for myself is of course extremely small. While I don’t mention reselling, my statement is factually correct: I almost always pull books out of large collections for my personal collection, and I donate the rest to libraries / the mini “free libraries” (free book stands) around my town, and purge larger amounts on Craigslist.
Another line I’ve seen used that I like a lot is “I specialize in rehoming books.”
Naturally, mentioning reselling will hurt your success rate, but I will always divulge this if asked directly.
Back to our list…
#2: NextDoor app
The NextDoor app has exploded in popularity. If you’re not familiar, it’s essentially a neighborhood-based social network that connects people in geographical proximity, to do everything from buy/sell/trade things, to get referrals on local business and resources, and lots more.
It has also exploded in popularity as a book sourcing platform. Same formula from above applies: Post offering to do free pickup for unwanted books.
#3: Facebook Marketplace
There’s two sides to getting free books on Facebook Marketplace: Posting your own “book pickup” ads (see above), and contacting people who have posted ads for free books.
Posting your own Facebook ads
This is simple:
- Go to Facebook Marketplace
- Click “Create A Listing”
- Enter “free” as a price
- Create your listing.
Here’s a couple examples of (presumable) Amazon sellers doing this right now:
Replying to “free book” ads
This is even simpler:
- Go to Facebook Marketplace
- Search for “books”
- Enter both the min and max price as $0.
You’ll get a bunch of results that look like this:
It goes without saying the vast majority of these listings will not be worth your time.
For a full primer on how to screen large book collections, here are 10 questions to ask when buying in bulk. Screening books before pickup will save a massive amount of time. Most free books are worth less than nothing (they will cost you physical labor and time).
Like Facebook, there’s two parts to this: posting your own ads, and finding free books other people are already offering.
Posting your own Craigslist ads
There’s going to be some debate here about the best category to post an ad soliciting free books. The three best options are:
- Free (advertise “free pickup” of unwanted books)
Once you choose a category, just create your post:
- Go to Craigslist
- Choose a category go post in
- Create your ad
Replying to “free” ads
The legendary Craigslist “free” section isn’t quite as legendary as a source books, but it can occasionally pay off. The major downsides to the Craigslist “free” page are:
- Almost everything that’s posted in taken within minutes.
- Refreshing the page all day will offer a very poor return on your time investment.
- Like most free book sources, the quality of the occassional scores tend to be poor.
The solution? Automate your Craigslist searching.
Over the years of FBA Mastery, I’ve posted tons of articles on dumpster diving for books. Mostly, I post these for my own amusement – 99% of sellers react in utter horror at the thought of getting inside a dumpster, and would never do it. Even if there’s free books (i.e. cash) inside. (Spoiler: You rarely need to actually get in the dumpster to retrieve the books, but I’m getting ahead of myself…)
The top 4 reasons sellers are so resistant to the idea of dumpster diving are:
- People don’t believe valuable books are thrown away.
- People don’t know where to go.
- People are scared of digging through trash.
- It’s inconsistent.
However, if you skip this section, you do so at great risk to your Amazon revenue. Of every “free book” source I’m describing here, dumpsters have been the most lucrative for me personally.
Dumpster diving for books is a big subject, so here are my #1 resource:
Dumpster Diving For Books: A Complete Guide
There is a massive range of places that throw books away, but here are my top 3:
- Public libraries
- College libraries
- Used bookstores
#6: Library sale leftovers
More than every other source here, this is one where you are truly doing the donor a favor by taking books off their hands.
Libraries are left with tons of books after their book sales. At which point they are nothing but a big logistical headache. This is where it becomes very easy to get a lot of books for free.
The move here is to go to the sale and ask for the person in charge. Introduce yourself as a “book recycler” (true) and ask what they do with the books leftover after the sale. Often they have a deal worked out with a larger company like Better World Books, in which case you may have a hard time competing.
If they have no one lined up to pick up the books (usually the case), then this is a huge opportunity. By offering to do all the packing and transport, you become an angel to libraries by relieving their volunteers of a massive amount of manual labor.
Your pitch is simply: You’ll take care of everything and have the books gone in X hours.
With this source, as with all others mentioned here, you are dealing with a disproportionate percentage of duds (aka “dead wood.”) But you’re making up for it in volume: library sales can have tens of thousands of leftover books.
#7: Selling books on consignment for anyone
This is somewhat of an advanced free book source, but not terribly complicated.
With a consignment arrangement, you’re approaching anyone who has large quantities of books, and offering to sell for them in exchange for a cut of the sale.
You get free inventory, the owners get to unburden themselves of unwanted books, and everyone gets paid.
Some ideas of who to approach:
- Friends of the Library chapters
- Smaller thrift stores
#8: Dorm donation bins
It’s a confounding but 100% true fact: When the semester ends, students throw everything imaginable into dumpsters. That includes books. Lots of books.
This phenomenon is so extreme, in recent years thrift store chains like Goodwill have taken to placing donation bins next to dorm dumpsters at major universities.
And there’s no reason you couldn’t do the same thing.
#9: Setting up a website
This is a tactic I wouldn’t believe would work unless I’d seen it yield results myself.
An ex girlfriend lived in a major city and created a simple one-page WordPress website for her Amazon bookselling business. The site was bare-bones, and just had some text about how she purchased books, and did free pickups of large collections. The site was seriously crude and she had no SEO (search engine optimization) training whatsoever.
Somehow she ranked in the top 3 results for “sell books in <town>.” And I watched her get regular offers from people asking if she’d haul away their unwanted books (one I remember specifically was an estate sale company trying to get rid of thousands of books after a sale).
#10: College library discards
I consider this a tragedy, but I’ve watched it happen over the last decade: College libraries are purging millions of books, as they turn more into lounges than learning environments.
This mass book purge does present opportunities for Amazon booksellers.
The goal is to find out what happens to books culled from the library stacks.
Often, you’ll be told they are sent to the university surplus department. From there, they may either be auctioned off, sold individually in a surplus store, or possibly discarded (find out which). Alternately, you may learn they are simply discarded.
From there, your mission is to arrange to pick up the books. Again, in the absence of offering money, your leverage is in 1. saving them labor. 2. insuring homes will be found for most books (libraries may be especially sensitive to this, as throwing away books has proven to be a PR liability for libraries in the past).
One library in the process of a purge can be a goldmine.
Where do you go from here?
You can build a whole business off this one article.
These 10 sources should keep you busy for a very long time, but they’re just the beginning. When it comes to book sourcing, you’re really only limited by your creativity. Free books are everywhere.
Many YT’ers are saying now that the strict cherry-picking model at thrift stores is no longer enough to succeed; that bulk buying in some form is absolutely necessary. Trouble is, I’m partially disabled and so bulk-buying in any way is totally out for me, even to the point of picking up two or three boxes of books from someone’s house. Should I just pack it in then?
Peter Valley says
First thing I want to know when someone says something on the internet that doesn’t sound right: Are they agitating a problem just to sell me the solution? 9/10 people who say “X doesn’t working anymore” are trying to sell you solution Y.
Great stuff! Facebook has proven problematic for me though. I have twice tried to place free pick-up ads and FB has removed them because they say that they violate policies. Has anyone else experienced this recently?
Peter Valley says
I talked about this a little in the video version of this article: If you’re still getting flagged for offering “free pickup” of unwanted books, try looking at what similar posts that aren’t getting removed are doing and modeling your post around theirs. There might be a subtle difference that’s tripping the FB censors.