A weird textbook publisher most sellers miss, and how I profited without scanning a single one.
- How I profited from blindly buying up Christian homeschooling books.
- A black friday online arbitrage secret.
- Announcing: My Black Friday sale (limited to 100 copies, see a few hints here)
The best way to make more than the next guy makes, is to do what the next guy is unwilling to do. And one thing almost no sellers are willing to do is look up books without barcodes.
Depending on what part of the country you live in (Bible belt vs anywhere else) you may see this publisher I’m about to discuss literally everywhere there are used books, or you may see these slightly less often, but never rarely. And almost every bookseller misses them (for one very specific reason I’ll share in a moment).
They are Beka Christian grade school books (alternately known as “A Beka.”)
Three important things about Beka:
- They are ubiquitous in the second-hand book market.
- Almost every bookseller misses them.
- Booksellers miss them for a very specific reason (which I’ll reveal in a second…)
- They have value an exceptionally high percentage of the time.
What are these books?
Beka publishes massive catalog of Christian grade school books. (Don’t ask me how you make math or spelling books religious, but they figure out a way.)
They all have a distinct look that you can’t really put your finger on, but over time, you’ll know them when you see them. Nearly all have the distinct (subtlely eighties-looking) Beka logo on the cover.
Once you know how to spot these, you’ll (probably) start seeing them everywhere.
Beka books have one distinct feature that set them apart from virtually every other book: A barcode that doesn’t scan, with an ISBN that isn’t really an ISBN.
The barcode looks a little “off,” you scan it, the barcode doesn’t scan, and you put them down and move on.
That’s what I did the first dozen times I found a Beka book. Then I realized if I was going to keep seeing these, I had better figure them out.
So I tried to find the ISBN to key one in. But there was no ISBN. Turns out no Beka books have real barcodes or ISBNs (might be a “barcodes are the mark of the beast” thing, who knows).
That means I had to go really old school: Keying the books into the
And when I did this, I started to learn something very cool about these books: They have value a really high percentage of the time (possibly because almost all other
Keying in books manually is the “key” to everything
This is one of the biggest advantages you can have as an
This subject deserves its own article, but I’ll make the point succinctly here:
Learning to spot value and key in barcode-less books manually is one of the highest-paying skills you can cultivate in the context of bookselling (maybe in the context of everything).
Recently I found the motherload of Beka books
Garage sale. Over a hundred Beka books. In a giant box. Covering a wide range of years (1990s until very recent).
There was no way I was going to key in 100 books by title.
So here was the experiment…
I decided to find out:
- Can you buy a huge stack of Beka books, totally blind, without looking them up, and still make money?
- Was this the elusive book type that was valuable so often, you could buy them without any scrutiny, and still come out ahead?
- Could I buy blindly and come out ahead even at $1 each?
I decided try it, with one filter: I was only going to buy books from the pile published after 2000. I went through every book, took every one that applied, and bought them all.
Here was the final tally
This was a $54 risk, but I got home, looked them all up, and here were the results:
- 54 purchased
- $54 spent
- 46 had value (an expected payout of $3+)
- $640 listing price
My risky experiment paid off.
Interpreting the numbers
There’s a pretty big thing we can draw from these numbers. Of the 54 books I bought, 46 were what I deemed profitable. Even though I was buying totally blind, a full 85% of the stack brought an expected
Other big one is that the average listing price was $14. Not bad for buying totally blind.
What about sales rank? I didn’t have the foresight to take note of the average rank, but it wasn’t great. The average Beka book is ranked worse than 1 million, and even the good selling ones tend to hover around 600,000. I’m almost certain the average sales rank was worse than 1.2 million.
“Slow and steady sellers” vs “badly ranked”
Another bookselling lesson here that deserves its own section: The false dichotomy of “good selling” vs “bad selling.”
While its true that average sales rank (which your scanning app should be showing you) reveals a book’s true demand, there’s always a (justifiable) skepticism about books that have an average worse than 1 million. How often is this book really selling? The numbers can be difficult to interpret in that range.
There are some book categories (like advanced math) that, while they have low demand, have very enduring demand. Beka is one of those categories. The demand might be low, but it is very steady.
Beka books may appeal to a niche audience (Christian homeschoolers), but that audience is consistent and they’re not going anywhere. And also with Beka books, there can be a decade between editions, so even “older” copies maintain demand.
I have no concern about these books not selling (some already have).
- Know when to key in books.
- Low demand does not equal unsteady demand.
- With Beka, it doesn’t matter if you key them in or not: If you see them, buy them.
My Black Friday Secret (w/promo code)
I’m going to give away a little “Black Friday” online arbitrage secret I’ve made some money with for the past several years. I’m only dedicating a small amount of space to this for two reasons:
- I don’t know precisely what sale they’re having this year (publishing this could really backfire and embarrass me if the sale turns out to not be great this year).
- It takes a decent amount of work to find profit.
I’ve written before about “Cyber Monday / Black Friday Arbitrage,” and all the insane deals that happen all over the internet this time of year. Lots of opportunity to cash in on the sales, and resell on
One of the biggest sales in the general media category is….
The Great Courses
This company publishes literally thousands of CD courses (usually categorized in Books on
What is the Great Courses Black Friday Sale?
Its an email-only promotion, and I have the “priority code” (i.e. coupon code) for you:
Priority code 166623
Website: Great Courses
What exactly is the sale? It’s a little ambiguous. They promise “up to” 85% off hundreds of courses. What this will actually mean when the rubber hits the road on Friday is unclear, but I’ve never not found online arbitrage opportunity with their Black Friday sales.
The formula is pretty simple: Search for the CD audiobook version on
Now Let’s Talk About My Black Friday Sale
I’m doing something very different.
What’s a “normal” Black Friday sale? Websites take what they have for sale already, and simply apply a discount.
I’m doing what few sites do: Offering you exclusive material that you can’t get anywhere else (or at least not easily or cheaply).
On Friday, I’m Revealing My Giant Red Box Of Stuff
I’m putting together a super-limited box of physical products.
Few important things about this box:
- This is rare, new, and/or hard to find training material.
- In a big red box.
- Guaranteed delivery by Christmas.
- Limited to 100 copies.
All will be revealed then.
If you want any hints, post questions in the comments below and I’ll answer…. or not.
See you Friday.