Tips for Online Book Sales

The Friends of the Tippecanoe County (IN) Public Library began selling books online in 1991 using eBay's auction site. A volunteer who was familiar with using eBay helped the Friends get started and two Friends did the selecting of books for online sales

How It Works

  • Select special interest books that have only a limited market in your own community.
  • Monitor book selling websites to learn more about selling unusual materials and to get an understanding of the market and prices.
  • Determine best site for listing the book - eBay for potentially popular or very unusual items, Amazon.Com for recent scholarly books and textbooks, (a site that provides a sales venue for libraries and library support groups only) for older titles that may be of more narrow interest.
  • Signing up to sell on most online sites is easy, and the step-by-step registration process is generally simple to follow. Most sites will require a credit card number, and for Amazon.Com, the seller needs to supply a bank account number as Amazon.Com collects the payments from the buyer and transfers the money directly into the seller's bank account.
  • Monitor email daily to answer queries about items listed and to respond promptly to sales.
  • Package and ship sold items within a day or two of the sale.

The Costs

  • Selling online is time-consuming and requires consistent monitoring. Someone needs to be checking the email daily and packing and mailing books promptly when they are sold. Prospective buyers often send inquiries via email as well, and these need to be answered right away. The Friends of the Tippecanoe County Public Library currently has four people involved in online sales - one who spends a lot of time listing books, mailing , and maintaining the inventory, two who list from time to time, and one who does the packaging and mailing twice a week.
  • Packing supplies will be necessary.
  • Some sites charge an up-front or a monthly fee - others will take a portion of the sales.
  • you'll be the recipient of many of them. Investigate carefully before you sign up for anything, deal with services that have good reputation.

The Results

In Tippecanoe, the Friends raise about $2,000 per year from their online sales with approximately 1,500 listings at any given time.