Used books sell more than new, why this is, and tricks to exploit this for profits.
In this article:
- Why used books sell more than new.
- Using this to your profitable advantage by listing New books as Used.
- A cool profit hack you can implement right now.
I like making sweeping proclamations without any statistics to back them up, but I know the following to be true:
People buy more used books from third party sellers than new books.
This is not the case in most other categories. And it may not be the case when you factor in sales placed with
Why people buy used books more than new
Before I talk about specific ways to profit from this, let’s look at the reasons why. I broke it down into the three major ones (the third one is the biggest).
- There is no stigma to a used book.
Purchasing used items in many if not most other categories might carry a subtle stigma. Can you imagine buying your family a used board game? Practically speaking, there’s no reason not to. But you might pay the extra $10 just so your kids don’t think you’re a freak. While this might not be a bias you or I am afflicted with, many are.
Books are a different story. We’re conditioned to assign no weirdness to a used book, especially among those of us who went to college and depended on used books to get through. Unless it’s a gift, most of us just want the cheapest option.
2. Books can’t break.
They can be pen-marked into un-readability, but the usual concerns about buying something used (missing parts, shorter lifespan, disc being scratched, etc) don’t apply.
3. New books never get the Buy Box.
This is the biggest one.
And what if
(Every time I mention this, I hear from
When you consider it’s estimated that 70% of all purchases are made through the Buy Box (estimates vary), this is a huge detail to overlook. It means that anyone wanting to buy your New book must forgo the convenience of the Buy Box, click over to view New copies, and then (assuming you’re an FBA seller) filter by Prime-eligible offers.
That’s asking a lot of someone who would rather being doing anything than sitting on their computer, shopping. And it will cost you a lot of sales.
How to exploit all of this for maximum profits
- Create a removal order for New books that haven’t sold in over one year.
I will then relist them as Used, and ship them back into
But I will do this only when both of the following conditions apply:
- Selling as Used will still yield me at least a $3+ payout (this is just my personal threshold).
- The price-drop from New to Used isn’t more than 70% (again, there’s no science here, this is just a personal parameter).
Since most used books on
What’s the logic here? If a book hasn’t sold in a year, I’d like to “reactivate” it, boost its chances of selling, and get it out the door. And the best way to do that is get it into the Buy Box.
Added bonus: Any customer who thinks they’re buying a Used copy and receives a New one will love you forever.
2. List New books as Used out of the gate.
If I have a New book in my possession, I will actually list it as Used if both of these conditions apply:
- The price gap between New and Used is less than 30%.
- The book has a poor sales rank (or sales rank history).
Basically, this is something I’ll apply to “long tail” (low demand) books for which I want to increase the odds they will sell.
I’m not afraid to sit on an item for a year or more, but if I’m only sacrificing 30% or less in profit while increasing the odds it will sell by 70% (if you accept that statistic of 70% of all sales occurring through the Buy Box), then I’ll do it.
Recent example: I wrote last month about using some Cyber-Monday sales to purchase expensive items at a discount, and reselling them back on
When I went to list, about 40% of these box sets had no significant gap between the Used and New copies. So I listed them as “Like New” (a condition category I almost never use and recommend against), despite them being brand new.
That gave them the Buy Box, a greatly increased chance of selling, and only marginally diminished profits.
It’s all about the Buy Box.
A post-Christmas profit hack
If you’re reading this and its anywhere close to Christmas, here’s something you can profit from…
I think we can agree on a couple things:
- Sales go crazy during the holidays.
- Most of what sees a surge are items in New condition (people just don’t often give used books as gifts).
Amazonhas surged to surpass WalMart as the biggest store in the world, and having an item for sale on Amazonis like having shelf space in the world’s biggest shopping destination.
If anyone wants your book, assuming you’re the lowest priced copy with the shipping options they’re looking for, your New items will fly out the door during the holidays.
If you have a New book that does not sell during Christmas, what conclusions can we draw?
I consider that a sign. A bad sign.
It doesn’t mean they won’t sell next Christmas (or at some point in the interim). In fact, they probably will. So you may not want to follow my lead here, but here’s what I do…
I take the last few days of the year to do some purging.
I go through and look at any item I’ve had in my inventory for which the following apply:
- In New condition.
- Been in inventory longer than six months.
- Didn’t sell during Christmas.
- It will get me at least a $3 payout.
Then I create a fulfillment order and have these items returned to me. Then I relist them as Used, and ship them back in to
This is the same process I described earlier, however it’s especially useful just after Christmas. If you have a New item that didn’t sell over the holidays, that’s a sign you need to step up and bring it back to life. It needs the Buy Box.
Guess what I’m doing tonight? Creating fulfillment orders. Lots of them.
PS: Strongly agree or disagree? Leave a comment below.