Find Books, Library and Bag Sales

Find Used Books

Library and Bag Sales

Library and bag sales are some of the best sources you'll find. Libraries collect donations every day from the public. Some libraries have their own bookstores operated by the Friends of the Library (FOL). The FOL is usually a team of volunteers who sort books, organize sales and provide other resources to benefit the libraries. The FOL gathers and sells books and encourages FOL memberships to raise funds. They help the libraries by ordering supplies as well as contributing to community programs. They are valuable contributors to the community. I encourage you to support your local libraries, buy books and pay for memberships. It all goes to a great cause.

Libraries organize sales to sell their donations. Sales often have great prices - anywhere from 25 cents to a few dollars per book. You can find many of these sales on www.booksalefinder.com. A good approach is to check booksalefinder and add the upcoming sales to your calendar. We recommend using a calendar to automatically repeat the local monthly sales. 

Here are a few tips when getting ready for a sale.

  • Get there 30 minutes - 1 hour early depending on the popularity of the sale. 
  • Bring your scanning equipment, a rechargeable battery, charging cables just to be safe
  • Bring a bag, box or crate to carry books.
  • If possible try to identify how books are organized and which sections you want to see first.
  • If you can connect to the Libraries wi-fi connection, do so. Sometimes cell phone service can be unreliable indoors.
  • Scan everything you can and make sure to check type-ins and picture scans. You'd be surprised how many good books are left behind because they don't have a barcode.
  • Sometimes libraries receive large donations from estates and there may be special books that aren't usually available. Listen for announcements or ask a librarian.
  • If there is a half-price or bag sale day make sure to go back to the sale. There are often books left behind other sellers did not want to buy for full price. If you can buy them at a discount it is worth the effort. When you have the chance to spend less on COGS, you can afford to sell these books even if the profit margin is less.

How to find Sales

  • Facebook - Follow libraries and bookstores and keep an eye out for special sales or announcements.
  • BookSaleFinder.com - is one of the most popular sites to find sales, they have sales listed for every region in the United States and a list of ongoing sales.
  • Booksalesfound.com - is a paid subscription service. You can try it free for 30 days. They include many of the sales listed on booksalefinder but also some sales like community events, rummage sales that are unadvertised.
  • Google - If you search book sales in your area sometimes you will find events that are not listed on any of the sites listed above.

Other notes - Check booksalefinder.com at least once a week and update your calendar. There are sales that pop up out of the blue. Sale dates can change, so if you are using a repeating calendar, double check those sales dates to be sure. Map out which sales you want to visit ahead of time. If you are visiting multiple sales, keep track of your timing to anticipate when you should arrive and leave a sale. Often times there are multiple sales in a day and you will see many of the same sellers shopping at these events. If you can get an understanding of their schedule and stay a step ahead, this can help you have a competitive advantage.

About Librarians and Volunteers

Librarians and volunteers are doing a service for the community. Their goal is to help raise money for the library and provide community programs. Volunteers are often retired professionals with great stories to tell. Engage and talk to them when possible. If the topic arises, don’t be afraid to tell them that you are scanning for books to sell. There is always a possibility you can create a friendly relationship. They may even tell you the best times to visit or let you look at the new books before anyone else. 

Etiquette 

All of this is optional, be we’ve found it to be helpful.

  • Don’t be overly aggressive
  • Say pardon me or excuse me when people need to get by at sales
  • Keep the places you scan as organized as possible
  • Try not to be loud and slam books 
  • If you can help organize or carry boxes for the volunteers, lend a helping hand.

This all goes a long way. You want to build positive relationships and the best way to do this is by being polite and respectful.

Competition

You will encounter competition out in the field, but there is no need to be intimidated. There is no need to be aggressive or standoffish. Booksellers are usually gentle people who simply enjoy working for themselves. You'll notice that booksellers come and go. Bookselling takes a while to learn and there is a large turn rate. At the end of the day, every "competitor" is a potential ally. It's okay to talk about business-related topics with the other sellers (maybe avoid telling them your sources). There is a lot to be learned by talking to others and it doesn't hurt to exchange business tips.

Is Online Arbitrage a good idea?

Yes, it can be, but it is not recommended for beginners. Online arbitrage (OA) is the process of buying Merchant Fulfilled books on Amazon and selling them for a higher price back on Amazon. This approach takes advantage of the "Prime Bump" (Prime book premium prices). There can be a noticeable margin between the MF and FBA prices. This is where the opportunity lies. There is software to find books with these price differences. Eflip and Zen Arbitrage are popular choices. The software helps you find these books using search filters. Some of the filters include:

  • Rank
  • Used MF price
  • FBA price
  • Numbers of Competing Offers 
  • Publication Date

For example, you may select filters to search for books with an average rank of 500,000 or below, with an MF price below $15 and the lowest FBA offer above $45. If the software finds a book like this, in theory, you could buy the book for $15 and sell the book on Amazon for $45. As you can see this is a completely different kind of sourcing.

The reason it is not recommended for new sellers is that there are a lot of factors involved. It requires experience and understanding of how books sell. There is a large amount of startup capital required for this model to work. Rather than spending 0.50-$1 for a book, you are averaging around $10 and up for each book. At a cost of $10 per book, there is an increased risk. If the book drops in value, you may lose money quickly. You also need to consider the book condition. It's possible that the book may be in worse condition than described. You need to take a chance and trust that your source will deliver a good product. Before I completely scare you away from this option, it should be said that there is a lot of money to be made in OA. People have built great businesses this way.

Before you begin Online Arbitrage:

  • You should truly understand Keepa data and seasonal trends.
  • With the COGS much higher, you should track every expense 
  • Keep a list of reliable sellers
  • Keep track of ROI

Use a Calendar to your Advantage

A calendar can be your best friend for planning routes. Whether it's documenting when sales are scheduled or when you plan to source, using a calendar is the best way to stay organized. Here are some tips for best utilizing your calendar.

  • Enter all upcoming book sales into your calendar and have recurring sales automatically repeat in your calendar settings.
  • Plan your weekly routes. As you track your sourcing you will uncover the best locations to visit. By knowing which days are the best to visit different locations, you will have a better idea when to visit next.
  • Talking to librarians/volunteers and asking “when they stock more books for sale” can get you valuable insight. Ongoing books sales have a stocking schedule and you should do your best to know when to be there. Enter that information into your calendar and soon enough you'll have a very clear picture when to visit every location.

Note: We use Google Calendar, Fantastical 2 and Slack to schedule sourcing.  

Other Resources/Tips

  • Thrift Stores - Search Google or Thriftshopper.com
  • FOL - Facebook, www.booksalefinder.com, www.PublicLibraries.com
  • Used Bookstores - www.indiebound.org, www.Biblio.com
  • Yard Sales - Yard Sale Treasure Map App, Just as with any other sale, the early bird gets the worm. Try to be there when they open. If possible, make sure the yard sale will include books.
  • Church Book Sales - www.garagesalefinder.com
  • Estate Sales -  www.estatesales.net, www.estatesale-finder.com
  • Colleges - Buy from students at semester end
  • Landfills - Tell them you are looking for books to buy in bulk, offer to buy books
  • Businesses - Ask business who may need to get rid of non-fiction (layers, architects, doctors, professors) if they have excess that they want to discard.
  • Public Surplus - www.publicsurplus.com
  • Auctions - www.auctionzip.com - Local Thrift Stores such as Goodwill may hold book auctions on a daily basis
  • Flea Markets - www.keysfleamarket.com
  • Recyclers - Buy books destined for paper recycling

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This information was last updated, May 2020.

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