Selling used books vs new: Why used books sell more than new on Amazon, and tricks to exploit this for profits
Selling used books vs new: Why used books sell more on Amazon
I like making sweeping proclamations without any statistics to back them up, but I know the following to be true:
People buy more used condition books from third party sellers than new condition books.
New books probably sell more overall, when you consider “direct from Amazon” purchases. But for 3rd party sellers, used books sell more than new.
If you have two copies of the same book listed on Amazon, the used book will sell faster most of the time.
This is not the case in most other Amazon categories. But in the Books category, for third party sellers, used beats new condition. I’ve been selling books on Amazon long enough to know this to be true.
Why people buy used books more than new on Amazon
Before I talk about specific ways to profit from this, let’s look at the reasons why this happens. I broke it down into the three major reasons Amazon customers prefer to buy used books vs new (the third one is the biggest).
There is no stigma to a used book.
Purchasing used items in many if not most other Amazon 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. (Especially when purchasing a gift). 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 on Amazon.
2. Books can’t break.
They can be pen-marked into un-readability, but the usual concerns about buying something used on Amazon (missing parts, shorter lifespan, disc being scratched, etc) don’t apply.
3. New books never get the Buy Box.
This is the biggest one.
New books can get the Buy Box if Amazon isn’t carrying a book (or its sold out). Buy generally, Amazon owns the Buy Box for New condition books.
It doesn’t matter if there’s a thousand lower-priced FBA offers in New condition, that top “Buy Box” spot belongs to Amazon.
When you consider the estimate 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.
Profit hack #1: Relisting new books as used
How: First, create a removal order for New books in your Amazon inventory that haven’t sold in over one year.
Then relist the books as Used, and ship them back into Amazon.
I will do this only when both of the following conditions apply:
- Selling the book as Used will still yield me at least a $3+ payout (this is just my personal threshold, yours may be different).
- 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 Amazon are under $5, and most new books are a lot more, realistically these two conditions don’t apply to most books. But they apply to a lot of them.
What’s the logic here? If a book hasn’t sold on Amazon in a year, I’d like to “reactivate” it. I.e. boost the book’s 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 Amazon customer who thinks they’re buying a Used book and receives a New one will love you forever.
Profit hack #2: Listing new books as used the first time
How: List New books on Amazon as Used out of the gate.
If I have a New book in my possession, I will actually list it as Used on Amazon if both of these conditions apply:
- The price gap between New and Used condition is less than 30%.
- The book has a poor sales rank (or sales rank history).
Basically, this is is a trick I’ll apply to “long tail” (low demand) books, where I want to increase the odds they will sell.
I’m not afraid to sit on a a book for a year, but only if I’m sacrificing 30% or less in my Amazon payout while increasing the odds it will sell by 70% (if you accept that statistic of 70% of all sales occurring through the Buy Box).
Recent example: I wrote last month about using some Cyber-Monday sales to purchase expensive items at a discount, and reselling them back on Amazon. My biggest purchase was a $2,000 massive box of CDs and DVDs from a big name business guru.
When I went to list, about 40% of these box sets had no significant gap between the Used and New copies on Amazon. 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 winning the Buy Box.
- Used condition books sell better than new condition books.
- It is frequently more profitable to list a new book as used.
- Amazon sellers should always be looking for opportunities to list New books as Used
- New books should be listed as used when for either 1. low-demand books 2. situations where there’s a direct profit motive to do so.