A light bulb went off when when I heard about BookScouter, a website that scours the Internet for used book sellers, at a recent Brooklyn Brainery event. By simply typing in the ISBN code of any used book and getting an aggregated list of online sellers willing to buy it, I could be making easy money. But instead of selling my prized book collection, I wondered how much I could get selling my neighbor’s castoffs. I decided to try it out for myself to see if I could turn a bit of stoop scavenging into some real cash.
HOW IT WORKS
You simply plug in the ISBN code, found on the back or inside jacket of most books. BookScouter pulls information from up to 44 online vendors including textbooks.com, bookstores.com, and bookbyte.com. They tell you whether the vendor has free shipping (most do) and if you get paid via PayPal or a mailed check. You can then link to the vendor of your choice and sell until your wallet’s content. The smart phone app allows you to scan the bar code instead of typing in the ISBN code.
Park Slope is prime stoop-book territory. Usually I browse for lazy afternoon reads, but now I was looking with dollar signs in my eyes: According to BookScouter, mass-market paperback fiction is the least profitable. Popular hardbacks and current textbooks tend to sell better. Cookbooks and reference books also have a higher demand, although prices are temperamental. I found a couple fiction and nonfiction paperbacks along 3rd Street and a large assortment of manuals and hardbacks on Sixth Ave. with a few filmmaker handbooks and a cache of young adult books jammed in a laundry basket nearby.
I was able to sell four of the 13 books I collected, for a whopping $6. Most sellers were not buying the books I had collected. The majority of hardbacks I thought would bring in the cash didn’t. Ella Minnow Pea, a hardback novel by Mark Dunn, received an offer of $0.53 at Bookstores.com and as much in credit from Amazon’s trade-in program. I did a little better with the manuals: A Kodak Student Filmmaker’s Handbook sold for $2 at Bookbyte but there was nary an offer for The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age. The nonfiction paperback She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders topping off at $2.50 from Textbooks.com. Powells.com, an Oregon based bookseller offered me $2.25 in virtual credit or $1.50 in PayPal funds for Eccentric Glamour: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You.
While every seller offered free shipping, they all required different minimums before you could sell. Powells requires a minimum of three books or $5 in credit — I sold three books to them for a total of $6 in credit, or $4 delivered to my PayPal account, which I readily accepted. I printed off a prepaid media shipping label and dropped it off at the post office.
Overall, it took me a day to pick up books and manually punch the ISBN codes into the website. Most booksellers promised reimbursement in two weeks but I received the deposits to my hungry PayPal account in one week. By streamlining the process with the mobile app, it’s worth scanning and selling abandoned books for a few bucks — my first time using it, I immediately found two books worth $3 each!