Flipping Used Books for Profit

After some recent success selling books with BookScouter*, I tried to branch out with my current operations as I sold through all the books that I had collecting dust on my bookshelf.

My focus turned to thrift stores. I’ve bought things there probably only a handful of times so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this is what I was hoping for: I was hoping that I could buy a couple of books for 25 cents each and find buyers through BookScouter for a $1 or a little more.

It wouldn’t make me much money, but it would be my proof of concept that I needed to confirm that this could be a realistic approach to making some money each month.

Monday was my day off so I decided to try my luck at the thrift store down the street. I got there about 20 minutes after they opened, and holy crap, it was packed! I guess it’s true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t find much treasure.

To my dismay, paperback books started at 99 cents and depending on the book type, went all the way up to $3.99.

Not to be one to be too discouraged to even give it a try, I went to work with the BookScouter app that I downloaded before I left the house.

The app was really simple to use. I just hit a button which activated my camera to scan the bar code and captured the book’s ISBN. Within seconds, I saw which sites would buy the book and for how much.

Unfortunately, most of the books were fetching no money. Except for one. One measly book. The E-Myth Revisited was the only one that would have made me any money at a buy-back price of $1.50. Too bad the book would have cost me 99 cents.

That just wasn’t worth it to stand in the long line to check out.

After about 45 minutes of scanning bar codes, I was ready to throw in the towel and admit defeat. Flipping thrift store books for profit just wasn’t meant to be.

But then I had another idea. Barnes and Noble has a discount section so maybe I can find some books to flip there?

The signs, literally, were promising!

Recently released books were 30% off with members getting an additional 10% off.

I wasn’t a member yet but I was prepared to become one if it meant I’d be making some money. 40% off list price sounds like it would have given me enough wiggle room to make some money, right?


Most books had a buy-back price between $5-7. Not bad, except that even with the 40% discount, I still wouldn’t be making a profit.

Scratch this idea off the list.

As a last-ditch effort, I thought I might be able to find some deals at TJ Maxx. It seemed like a good idea until I searched the entire store and the only books that I could find were children’s books. Yeah….that wasn’t going to work either.

After about 2 hours of in-the-field research, I found 3 ways to not make money flipping books.

Not a bad day’s work.

I still believe that flipping books using BookScouter is possible but I need to switch things up. Mainly, the source that I get books from and the type of books that I’m focused on.

Business books seem like they sell for decent money but they’re nothing to write home about. College textbooks seem to be where most the opportunity is at.

This is where I’ll focus all my attention from now on.

All that’s left to work on now is the source of where I get college textbooks from.

eBay hasn’t really been that great lately so I’m not sure if I should try that route again. I think an app like LetGo could work. I haven’t gone too deep down the rabbit hole with this one, but the initial research has been promising.

If apps don’t work, then maybe there’s a Facebook group or something like where students go to sell books and/or talking about where they sell books. I might try to infiltrate this market this way. It could take some leg work but if I can make solid contacts that sell to me at the end of each semester then it would definitely be worth it.

If I can pay more than the bookstore and they don’t know about BookScouter or any other source that will buy books for higher than what I’m willing to offer, then I’m in business.

I’ll check this out soon and I’ll report back with my findings.

What do you think about my making money idea? Any tips? Anything else that you think I could try?

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Photo courtesy of ChrisGuillebeau.com


  1. Just thinking, you could find the books that fetch the most amount of money, then search the title of the book + “syllabus” or title of the book + . If you find a local class teaching with this book, you could show up of the last day of class after the exam and offer them cash money for their books. You are offering them better convenience than standing in line at the school bookstore when everyone at school will be there doing the same thing. Also, buying directly from the students seems a better idea than going through a 3rd party as students posting on craigslist, ebay, and so on are expecting a higher price for their trouble.

    Finding niche books that sell for hundreds of dollars should make it worth your while if you can buy an armload of them in one trip.

    But now I’m wondering if this is what you want to do with your life? I could be wrong, but arbitraging books for beer money doesn’t seem like something you can be passionate about.


    • Those are all awesome points. The showing up after exams route could be a great way to go about it. It would take lots of leg work and figuring out logistics but it could work. Your last point got me thinking about this idea though, and you’re right,I don’t think that it’s something that I can be passionate about and it wouldn’t be worth all that effort just to make a couple of bucks. There’s only one way to find out if something will actually work and that’s by doing it. I think my initial findings prove that there’s better things out there for me.


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