Can you make money buying books at Barnes & Noble and reselling them on Amazon? How I found a $900 book at a retail bookstore
I’ve had regular but inconsistent success sourcing Barnes & Noble’s discounted book section for titles I can resell on Amazon for a profit (Key word: inconsistent. Realistically, you probably won’t make much money from this.)
Every once in a while, I’ll find a stack of books Barnes & Noble has discounted, that have little-to-no FBA competition, and a big enough price differential to be worth the investment. In those instances, I can come out of Barnes & Noble with a pile of multiples that I ship off to an FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) warehouse the next day.
Often, my Barnes & Noble membership, (giving me an extra 10% off) just barely gets my profit margins where I need to be to make the purchase.
What is retail arbitrage?
This term gets thrown around a lot in the Amazon selling space. Here’s how it was defined historically:
“Buying a new item from a retail environment (non-second-hand), and reselling online for a profit.”
In recent years, the term “retail arbitrage” has become watered down (in my opinion). Sometimes, you’ll see it used today to refer to purchasing anything offline (new or not) and reselling online.
I have always defined it (and will define it when used anywhere on FBA Mastery) to mean purchasing new items in a store that only sells new items, and reselling on Amazon.
My $900 Barnes & Noble retail arbitrage score
This week, I had my most interesting Barnes & Noble “retail arbitrage” find yet.
I wasn’t even looking in the discount book section. I was browsing the business section and found a rather tattered title that looked out of place. Almost like a used book. At a glance I could tell it was one of those books someone special ordered, then never came to pick up. In such a situation, Barnes & Noble will often just put the book on the shelf.
This book looked like it had been there for years. The subject matter was something about “business succession planning.” This was arcane & self-published enough that it looked like a title Amazon might only have third-party offers for, so I scanned it. Here’s what came up:
Sales rank: 2.5 million.
Lowest merchant-fulfilled offer: $899
The logic behind buying this weird $900 book
As I’ll covered in another post on Amazon Sales Rank, a rank of 2.5 that is not all it may seem.
Most info out there on selling with Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) will tell you to avoid anything ranked worse than 1 million. Many will even say avoid anything ranked worse than 500,000. But that’s not always wise.
Have you heard of someone selling a book with an Amazon sales rank of 10 million? The first time I sold one, I could hardly believe it. Until I sold a book over 5 years old that had no sales rank – that is, it had never sold – and it sold on Amazon for over $150.
Since then I’ve learned to identify books with a small but steady demand on Amazon (books that sell “once in a while”), vs books that are merely obsolete. This one had such an arcane subject matter, I put it in the first category.
I checked the Keepa charts, and the numbers got a little murky. The book spent almost all of its time between $200 to $400. Not a lot of time as high as $900 (where it was at that moment). And it appeared to be getting sales in the $200 to $400 range.
Good enough for me.
What did I do when I found this book?
I bought it for the cover price of $30.
Will it ever sell on Amazon? I don’t know, but it’s worth the risk. If I bought 25 books with the same value, and only one of them sold in, then every book that sold beyond that would be pure profit. That’s the logic I apply to sourcing books to resell, when the margins are huge.
Easily 95% of my inventory is from a second-hand or non-new-condition environment. This “retail arbitrage” model works for some, but its never been my main model.
But if this does sell, be sure I’ll be bragging about it in a very unprofessional way here.