Nov 30

Make money from your old books

Reading Time: 6 mins

If you’re something of a bibliophile, chances are your home is filled with old books from floor to ceiling. While some (okay, many) may hold sentimental value, there are those you probably wouldn’t mind passing along… just to make space for a few new tomes, you know.

So, why not try making some extra cash while at it?

Here are a few ways you can earn a bit of pocket money from your old books:



Lots of old books

Probably the most obvious route to take, selling your books is a sure fire way to make a quick pound or two.

But how? You may be asking. Here are a few ways and means to consider:


Selling books through an online store is a great option for anyone struggling to keep up with their already busy schedule. Normally the only effort that comes with this is either simply entering the barcode/ISBN numbers or writing a short description and then packaging the books for the courier/postal service.

Sites you may consider using include:

    • eBay: because the site is popular among vintage-lovers, it would be a great spot to sell your more niche ‘cult’ novels. E.g. Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and On the Road by Jack Kerouac
    • WeBuyBooks: this is any lazy bookseller’s dream. All you have to do to receive an instant valuation is enter the ISBN number/bar code on the site and once you’ve managed to make up a minimum value of £5, you can send your books off to their warehouse free of charge.
    • Fatbrain: focused on the student market, Fatbrain is the ideal platform for selling textbooks.
    • Then there are also the likes of Amazon and Abebooks, but serving as middlemen they do expect a small cut of your earnings.
    • Instagram and dedicated Facebook groups are also great, albeit unusual platforms to try out for the selling of products. Read our article about selling stuff on Instagram for a guide to starting your own shop.

Garage sale

If you have some time on your hands and maybe want to get rid of additional household items, you could always have a garage sale. Because people will be looking for bargains, be sure to price books conservatively, which may just encourage shoppers to buy a whole stack instead of just one.

Used Bookshop

Every avid reader has his/her favourite second-hand bookshop. Since you probably have a good relationship with the owner or manager already, why not find out whether they offer cash for used books or only work on an exchange policy? If they do offer cash, remember that you will get more for a rare book than you would for a Mills & Boon, for instance.



Elderly woman putting old book in recycling book-bank

So, you’re wondering what to do with that annoying stack of company yearbooks? You hate sending stuff to landfills unnecessarily, but you also can’t stand the thought of them just sitting there gathering dust.

Good news! There are actually companies that will help recycle your old books… and pay you for it!

Both SimplySellBooks and WeBuyBooks offer recycling as one of their services.

The sites work slightly differently, but what it basically comes down to is entering either the barcode or ISBN number to receive a valuation. As mentioned earlier, WeBuyBooks requires a minimum value of £5, while SimplySellBooks has a minimum value of £10.

Another site to consider if Ziffit. They not only buy books, but also DVDs, CDs and games, so it’s perfect for a big clear out.


Turning your old books into unusual gifts

Books wrapped in ribbons

Calling all crafty types – this one’s just for you!

Have you ever considered turning your old books into unusual gifts and selling them at a craft market or on Etsy? Yes, this is an option!

Here are a few fun ideas:

  • Transform a beautiful old book into a planter – check out this tutorial on Apartment Therapy
  • Use pages as canvas for ink drawings – check out this tutorial on Craftsy
  • Create gorgeous vintage-looking jewellery – watch this video tutorial
  • Turn your old book into a storage box – watch this video tutorial


How much you can expect to make

Old books in primary colours

Look, unless you’re in possession of an extremely rare title – perhaps Gutenberg Bible that can fetch you between $25−35 million or James Audobon’s Birds of America valued at £6.5m – you’re not going to make a fortune from your old books. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying!


If you’re selling through one of the websites mentioned above, you can expect to make a minimum of £5 for a couple of books, depending on the titles you have in your collection.

Garage sale

If you’re setting up your own garage sale, you can decide what you’d like to charge per book. WeBuyBooks and SimplySellBooks’ valuation function could come in handy here to help you decide on pricing. As mentioned earlier, it’s probably a good idea to keep prices low, which would encourage people to buy more books in one go.


Going the crafty route? Because you’re going to be putting effort into this work, you should charge an amount that would cover your materials and your time. The going rate for any creative work is normally 3x the cost of your materials.


A quick note on rare old books

Antique books

If you are in possession of a book that you suspect might be rare and sought-after, don’t risk losing out on a handsome sum of money by taking it to the little second-hand bookshop on the corner.

Instead, see if you can determine its worth using WeBuyBooks. If you can’t (maybe it precedes barcodes and ISBN), consider taking it to a relevant department at your closest university. The academics would either be able to give you an idea of its value or refer you to someone else in the know.


Case study: Ricky Willis, editor of Skint Dad

Keen to start selling your old books, but just need one last shot of inspiration?

Ricky Willis, editor of the popular financial blog Skint Dad, first started exchanging old textbooks for cash on Amazon Marketplace a couple of years ago, after finishing his Master’s degree.

Impressed by the ease of listing and the promptness of payments, he decided to test the waters with a few of his other books too.

“I started earning a few extra pounds, nothing amazing but extra money is nothing to be sniffed at as all readers of this blog will tell you!” he writes in his blog post about selling second hand books.

Will explains that at his peak he probably sold about 15 books per month, making a profit per item that ranged from £3 to £10.

Perhaps his core piece of advice can be summed up in the following:

“Find a strategy that suits you, be it selling popular titles and making small profits of a £1 or so per book, or focusing on rarer titles with less sales but which will make you more like £10 an item.”

Read more about Willis’ experience selling old books on Skint Dad.

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