Selling used books has undergone many changes in the last decade. It used to be a friendly and personal endeavor in which people interested in browsing books would visit a used bookstore. Used book sellers hope potential clients will be bibliophiles who bring in more business because they collect and invest in books. Although used bookstores still grace shopping malls and squares, Amazon has become the big used internet bookstore bully which the reader can count on to buy any book with just a few clicks of an iPhone. Now the name of the game is to make a quick buck, selling books on Amazon, not the local used bookstore. Some used book aficionados today argue that selling books has become a rat race for profit.
Today, used book selling has turned from reading and collecting to making a lot of money. These young sellers can make huge profits by paying for downloading the Amazon Seller App to their iPhones. This gives them access to Amazon which instantly lists what they would pay for each book by scanning a book’s barcode. Amazon also offers an incentive to sell more quickly. It’s called the FBA (“Fulfillment by Amazon,”), which immediately pays the seller after shipping a boxload of books to the company. Many sellers on Amazon reported on YouTube the unbelievable amounts of money they made while others reported less favorable financial experiences.
Even though you might want a swift opportunity to make easy money, you might be wearing rose colored glasses. As the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” So, let’s slow this process down and not be so hasty to flip books. What is lost here is an appreciation for books, especially distinguished ones that are old and have been gathering dust for decades, even centuries. When I visit my local trusty Salvation Army, I’m not just looking for modern and sometimes popular books for profit. I search the rows for much older editions that might be valuable, because the staff overlooked them. Sometimes, they are literary classics, sometimes not. Or older books may be part of a volume set. A reputable bookstore that sells rare books may just as well have the entire set at a weekend garage sale.
For many old-school book buyers, collecting should be fun. Most sellers still buy used books at garage sales, church and library book sales, estate sales and, of course, used bookstores without the aid of a barcode reader. They enjoy the challenge of searching the rows of shelves and tables looking for books that are appealing to the eyes.
Also, finding books that might be rarer and more valuable is the result of taking time to examine rows of books. Buying books can become part of a personal reading library that can decorate a room with just a few full shelves of books to one with shelves that reach the ceiling. What a large personal library communicates about its owner is cultivation, even education—a Renaissance man or woman. Books really can define a man or woman, or as Marcus Tullius Cicero, legendary ancient Roman philosopher stated, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
In order to join the book business, the book seller must be a book buyer or he wouldn’t have any books to sell for profit. But the person who buys books can keep them without financial gain. Today, many young sellers come to book sales armed with their Amazon seller gadgets, and scan books as fast as they can to find books that amount to large profits. Instead, the leisurely bibliophile searches books to find those prizes which he buys to add to his collection or read at his leisure. When he is through enjoying his book, he may sell it for a profit.
It appears Amazon’s bustling seller program with its relatively new seller app is a real profit maker for many who use it maximum financial gain. Others oppose it because the program didn’t work for them. Perhaps if they want to sell used books, they can start a used bookstore, where fast money is replaced with a slower financial stream of income. To the Amazon seller, books are just objects which, when scanned for big money, fly off the table. To the bibliophile, books are like friends that never leave the shelf.
By Harrington A Lackey