Truth vs lies: Here are 4 things most booksellers get wrong about reselling textbooks on Amazon.
Lies Amazon sellers tell themselves about selling textbooks
Here they are: The Top 4 Myths About Reselling Textbooks on Amazon:
Reselling Textbooks Myth #1: Older editions of textbooks don’t sell on Amazon.
This sentiment isn’t objectively wrong (every textbook is different). But asking “Do older editions of textbooks still sell?” is asking the wrong question.
Demand for a textbook on Amazon does not directly correlate with edition. Or to put it a better way: you can determine little about a book’s demand by knowing how many newer editions there are.
The number of new editions of the textbook is simply the wrong data point.
There is only one thing that matters when assessing a book’s demand: It’s Amazon sales rank. Or more accurately, it’s sales rank history. Nothing else matters.
If you have the latest edition of a textbook and it’s Amazon sales rank history (as revealed via Keepa or elsewhere) is showing it sells one copy every three months, then it sells one copy every three months. It’s edition is irrelevant.
The sales rank history does not lie.
And if you have the 10 year old 7th edition of a textbook, and the 13th edition was just released, yet Keepa is showing the 7th edition sells on Amazon every three days; that’s all you have to know. It sells every three days.
We cannot possibly know all the trends, economics, and odd forces that contribute to a book’s demand. Maybe Amazon’s algorithm is favoring an older edition in its search results. Maybe Oprah was carrying a copy of Macroeconomics, 2nd Edition (2001) when she was spotted at LAX this week. The fact is, we don’t know anything.
Our assumptions (or more accurately – our superstitions) are irrelevant. All that matters is the data.
Shut off your brain and defer entirely to the data.
Reselling Textbooks Myth #2: Amazon textbook buyers care about condition.
Students care a little about condition, but not that much. Students care a lot less about textbook condition than consumers of other books.
They’re using the textbook for a few months and never looking at it again. The textbook is an afterthought.
If you’re only shipping in textbooks to Amazon that are Very Good condition or better, or avoiding Acceptable condition, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. It doesn’t matter that much.
Reselling Textbooks Myth #3: Textbooks with cheaper editions of offers elsewhere won’t sell.
As this belief goes, if a textbook on Amazon has a cheaper Kindle edition, cheaper previous edition, cheaper rental option, or cheaper eBay offer: it won’t sell.
This deserves its own post: “this” being people’s habit of using unimportant, extraneous data to make Amazon pricing decisions.
Think of each of these as separate book-buying markets: Kindle, rentals, hard-copy buyers, and eBay buyers. These groups are not without overlap, but there’s not as much overlap as you’d think.
If a textbook buyer is shopping for a Kindle version, you’re shopping for the Kindle version.
Price your textbooks on Amazon as though your customers were only looking at that column on that page – ignore rentals, Kindle, older editions, and even the New tab (or Used, as the case may be).
When anyone reselling textbooks gets caught up in these micro-comparisons, it will only cost you profits, and serves to drive prices down for everyone.
Reselling Textbooks Myth #4: Textbooks only sell during August and January.
Aka “textbooks only sell during textbook season.”
This is the big myth. The Great Lie.
Fact is, the sales gap between January/August and the rest of the year has narrowed in the last decade. And I suspect the primary culprit is the rise of higher education courses taken online.
From looking back at my stats over past years, the highs of January/August aren’t quite as high as they used to be. And the lows of the rest of the year aren’t lows at all.
The fact is, textbooks sell year round.
Don’t take my word for it. If you don’t believe it, try this:
- Pick any textbook published in the last 5-ish years (to increase the odds the books is still relevant – not because older textbooks don’t sell).
- Put the ISBN into Keepa.
- Click the Amazon Sales Rank tab.
- Zoom out to view stats for 1 year.
Every time you see the line in that graph jump up, that usually means an Amazon sale.
Are you seeing sales taking place that aren’t in January and August? For nearly every book, the answer should be: Yes, lots.
One slightly less inaccurate textbook selling belief
“Textbooks only sell steadily during August and January. “
Again, the above Amazon sales rank history exercise should show that this too is incorrect.
All that happens during textbook season is that Amazon sales go up. This is not to be confused with the absence of sales at other times.
If you’re only sourcing, shipping in, or thinking about textbooks twice a year; you’re forfeiting a ton in profits.
- Myth #1: Older editions of textbooks don’t sell on Amazon.
- Myth #2: Amazon textbook buyers care about condition.
- Myth #3: Textbooks with cheaper editions of offers elsewhere won’t sell.
- Myth #4: Textbooks only sell during August and January.
PS: Everyone wants to know what day in January textbook sales on Amazon peak. I did a quick glance at last year and for me it was the 10th. That would translate to the first Friday after school is back in session. If that holds, you’ll see Amazon sales peak this year on January 8th.