Old Book Love
As a librarian I often get asked about selling old books. Let me be clear – I love old books. I often pay WAY more than I should for old books that I buy for my own collection. This is NOT an encouragement to get rid of your old books in anyway.
How Do You Sell Old Books
I get the question about how to sell books often, especially from other libraries, but also from regular people, that I decided it would be worth putting my normal advice into a post. This assumes the decision to get rid of the books has been made and isn’t answering whether or not you should chose to weed any particular books…..[because I could also give you earful on that, but I won’t here. 🙂 ] While the wording below is pitched as if toward a library I think it applies equally well for individuals, especially in cases where you are cleaning out a house because of a death in the family or you’re moving to smaller quarters, etc.
When Is An Old Book Valuable
Any way that is going to maximize your profits from selling the old books (listing the books online, hosting an auction with the posted goal of fundraising for the library, etc.) is going to take a lot of work, probably volunteer if you’re an organization, a lot of your time if you’re an individual. If that’s not going to happen, then don’t let the fear that you are going to let something incredibly valuable go stop you from doing something like having a used book seller come in to buy the lot.
Just look at the books carefully first. Most of those unbelievable garage sale find stories (which are as rare in real life as lottery wins) are because something was in a box that no one noticed was in there. Carefully go through things first and that won’t happen. Ask yourself these questions about the books and if you get a yes, put them aside to look at further. Are the books the pristine? Are they first edition? If they aren’t either then they are rarely valuable. An explanation of those exceptions where they might be is my Value of Old Books post. Those that might qualify as pristine or first edition look up online. And if there is anything that looks like it might be special to you, look it up too. I don’t think it’s worth looking up each one if you aren’t going the individual sales route, but if you have questions about any of them, look it up on a used book site like Amazon, Abe books, etc. It won’t cost you anything to check what other people are asking for something similar although pay special attention to see how long it’s been listed, if it’s been on awhile at a price and no one has paid it, it may be unreasonably high. Remember you can always ASK for any amount you want on such sites, it doesn’t mean you’ll get it. While you are at it double check each book to see if anything is tucked inside any of them look it over and make sure it isn’t important. Then consider it good and invite a book dealer in. People who professionally buy and sell put in a lot of time keeping current with trends and demands, knowing the market, and developing contacts.
Q:Will a used book seller try to make a profit of at least 50% off you?
Are you willing to put the time and work in to get the knowledge and contacts to get that extra 50% for yourself? If not, don’t begrudge them. Information is worth something and gathering it is work.
I don’t have a particular book seller in mind, but I’d call up a couple of used book shops that are closest to you and see if they’d come take a look.
Last UPDATED July 10 2016: I did some mild editing, added the headings, and updated the signature block to the current one.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.