A Simple Approach to Living With Less

How to Go from Books to Bucks

It is a truly awesome feeling to make money from stuff that is cluttering up your house. It’s a win-win. You get to declutter your space and make a profit from that feeling. I know how great this feels because we just traded in 17 boxes of books for $881.20! Don’t continue to ignore your clutter. Your clutter wants to make you some money!

Sell Your Crap

There are several ways to make some money back on items you’re removing from your house. Adam Baker goes into great detail about how to sell items on eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon in his e-book “Sell Your Crap.” If you’ve never sold anything online or you’re looking for some insider tips on how to just learn to do it better, his in-depth guides should not be missed!

I am not an expert with how to sell my discarded things. Typically I’m in too big of a hurry to sell things one at a time on eBay or Craigslist because I am an impatient declutterer. However, if we know something is worth enough money to warrant the trouble of listing it, then we’ll do it. We’ve sold lots of unused computer equipment this way and upgraded our iphones and laptops for a profit just by selling our old ones. It’s really pretty amazing what people will pay for stuff online isn’t it?

From Books to Bucks

Originally I never would have thought we could make hundreds of dollars from selling books. I didn’t know we could quickly sell them in a way that would be worth our time. Granted, not everyone has a home library of thousands of books, but most people have some unread books and almost certainly old movies or video games around the house. If the thought of parting with any of your books gives you a pain in your chest, then I highly recommend you read “Breaking the Sentimental Attachment to Books” by Robyn Devine. It was absolutely mind opening to me and I love the steps she gives for evaluating your library.

From my experience, eBay is not very profitable for selling books unless it’s a title in high demand. When we go through books, we go through the following process:

  1. Check Amazon’s trade-in program to see if they will buy it back. Although Amazon advertises this service as being just for trading in textbooks, movies, or video games, they will take any kind of book. (Just search for “Textbook Buyback” in the Amazon search and you’ll find your way). You just enter the ISBN number of your item and see if it is eligible for trade-in. It’s not a given that they will take your book because it’s determined by what Amazon resellers are looking for, but it’s always the first place I start. Amazon pays for you to ship your books so it’s a very painless process.
  2. Double check your books on eBay. If you have a book that you know should be worth something because it’s either out of print or in high demand, it’s worth checking for completed listings of that title on eBay. If Amazon is interested in a title, then that could be because they know it’s worth more money. For example, there was a children’s book that Amazon wanted to buy back for five dollars (which is pretty high for Amazon) but on eBay that same title was going for over $100. However, just because something is listed for a lot of money is not enough. Always check the completed listings to see if anyone is actually paying any money for that book title.
  3. Trade in your books at a used bookstore. There are other online companies that buy back your books but we took our books to McKay Used Books in Chattanooga. It was a 2 hour drive for us to deliver our books but it proved to be well worth it. We opted for store credit for payment since they have such a large variety of products available. We went back this weekend to spend part of the $800 on some books, video games, and movies for Christmas presents. On our return visit we took 20 more boxes of books. So far that’s 37 boxes of books we’ve cleared out and it feels awesome to make a profit while clearing out clutter!
  4. If no one wants to buy them, toss them. Finally, if you’ve already decided you don’t want a book anymore and no one wants to buy it back, get rid of it. You can try donating them or you can just throw them out. Just don’t hang onto them if they’re useless.

Just Try It

Admit it, now you’re curious if you have money just sitting on your bookshelf. Go log onto Amazon and see if anyone wants to buy your books or old games and movies. That stuff isn’t making you any money just sitting there. It really can be fun! I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve turned your clutter into cash.


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photo by nkzs

Article originally published on 11/08/2010

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  1. Thanks so much for this article. Books are one of the things that I can’t seem to part with. I keep thinking my children will want to read the classics one day.

    • Faith Janes says

      We certainly didn’t get rid of all our books. We’re a homeschooling family so there is a need to hang onto some books. If the classics are something you want to keep for your children, I’m certainly not going to try to convince you otherwise. But I also know that my kids might be reading the classics on an ebook reader by the time they’re ready for them.

  2. I have sold quite a few books recently on Amazon. Ebay might return more, but Amazon makes it SO easy!

    • Faith Janes says

      It is so fast and easy, isn’t it? We also had a bar code scanner so we were able to scan all those ISBN numbers super fast.

  3. Another way to get rid of unsellable books (or at least books that aren’t worth your trouble to list on eBay or Amazon) is to use paperbackswap.com. It’s a book swap program, and not just for paperbacks. This is great for people who read a lot, and you are helping the environment through reuse.

  4. greendragonfly says

    You didn’t mention giving books to thrift stores! I buy a lot of books in these places, especially kids books. And old craft patterns, even old ones, have a home at thrift stores. Also, old magazines can be given to nursing homes, pre schools, thrift stores (they really do sell them)…

    Even better, see if a local library wants them! Many libraries have book sales to raise funds for the library – this is a great way to help them out. Another thing, many tiny town libraries need books but don’t have funds to buy them. Mailing boxes of books (at a library rate, so it’s much cheaper) is a great way to help out these places. Always check with them first of course, but my tiny town library was THRILLED to get the boxes of books that I sent (I find them at yard sales).

    Finally, there is a GREAT program for our soldiers – Books for Soldiers. http://booksforsoldiers.com/ Soldiers make requests for types of books wanted and generous volunteers here at home fulfill the needs.

    Throwing them out is the worst option both environmentally and ethically to me. There are so many places that would be excited for any book that there is no need to put them in the trash.

    And, you’re right about checking to see if a book is worth anything. We have an older science book and I was about to donate it when my husband looked it up – $200! Needless to say, we have decided to keep it. 🙂

    • Faith Janes says

      Well I did mention donating them in step #4, but those are some great specific ideas to do so. I never knew about Books for Soldiers…thanks for including that.

    • Public Librarian says

      As a librarian, I want to second the comment that we love to get donations. Just be aware that once you donate it, we decide what happens to it. At my library, we evaluate all donations to see if we want to add them to the collection. If not, we give them to the Friends of the Library. They sell many of them to raise funds for the library. Some, they send to soldiers overseas or to prisons. And some do have to be recycled. So, be realistic. If your book is missing pages or the cover, is torn, chewed on, water-damaged, or so old and yellowed the pages break, do recycle it or toss it and save us the trouble. If you don’t want it because it’s in terrible shape, no one else does either. But if it’s in good, readable condition, please donate!

  5. I’ve always thought I was a minimalist with books – only keeping what I would read again – not anymore! I kept six and sold the rest. I live a few blocks from a huge library and have decided they can store books so I can have clean shelves.
    Faith: that is a huge haul of books! Must feel great to have them out of the house.

    • Faith Janes says

      It did feel really great. It doesn’t feel like it made much of a dent really but little by little we’re making progress.

  6. Great post. I have often donated books at my local library. They will often take toddler toys, puzzles, and movies too. I get a letter from the library and take the tax write off. It is worth the time to donate them if you don’t think you have books worth selling.

  7. This site lets you search for buyback values at multiple sites at once, including amazon: http://www.bookfinder.com/buyback/

  8. Books are my friends? How can I part with them? I needed to read this and plan to get rid of books because I don’t have room for them. Some I don’t use often I put in a box or boxes in the basement so they’re out of the office. I have used some of those books so I know I can’t get rid of all of them. I should stay out of the used book stores! Thanks everyone for your suggestions.

  9. Bookcrossing.com is another idea. Set your books free into the world, with a note (see the website) and you might get feedback about what happened to them.

    A very emotional subject with me, but I have decided to tackle it next.

  10. Another good option if you still want access to the books is to donate them somewhere that you can still have them. I gave all of mine to the senior center where I teach Taiji classes… I can read any and all anytime and I don’t have to store them!

  11. Another great place to donate book is Books for Africa:



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