Buying and Selling Books

Parent Q&A

  • Advice on shutting down on-line book business

    (10 replies)


    My dad lives in DC and has an on-line book business that he wants to retire from. He has about 20,000 books on-line ranging from standard to first edition and rare books, and stored in various depots in the DC area. My family is trying to figure out ways to relinquish this business as my dad is getting older and just cannot run a business anymore.....both obvious ideas (finding a buyer) to more creative ideas that we haven't thought of are appeciated. SInce the books are in DC, I know that we are likely limited to doing things in that area or relatively neaby, but wanted to see if anyone has dealt with getting rid of a large amount of books, or general advice on how to proceed. We are open to any possibility.... giving a bunch of books away, doing something in which someone else runs the business and we devise a plan to potentially takes it over, etc., selling the whole inventory, etc.  We don't want all of his hard work and inventory to be a total loss to him, as it has been his passion and life for many years, , and are hoping that we can figure something out that would work well for all parties. Any adivce, or people who you could refer us to for advice  on winding down this business- or thinking outside the box- would be greatly appreciated!

    I wrote you a long post with advice over a week ago and then it got deleted. One of the suggestions Chuck w/Wonderbooks was posted by someone else. I had to help my dad (a retired former library) get rid of his vast personal collection in DC. I reached out to a publisher (Jill details below) who sent me an email with more referrals (I'm crazy busy and this my 2nd time trying to help so I'm just pasting Jill's email below. Consider contacting Jill yourself since your situation is different than ours was so she might have additional recommendations for you. The only folks on her list I contact was Lauri Grishman with Riverby (202-543-4342 | riverbybookshill [at]" rel="nofollow">riverbybookshill [at] w ho referred me to Chuck (chuck [at]" rel="nofollow">chuck [at] who buys books in bulk and who was already recommended by someone else under a different email). They were both helpful. Lauri let me send her some photos of the spines of Dad's books so she could get a sense if they'd have resale value; she said she does this when she can't inspect a collection in person. I sure hope that you'll get this in time for it to be useful or someone else will find it useful. I'd be interested if you post how it works out. 

    Jill Zacharie

    Virginia Publications

    Washington Book Distributors

    4930A Eisenhower Avenue

    Alexandria, Virginia 22304-4809

    703-212-9113   703-212-9114 FAX

    From Jill (i.e. all the I's and We's below are from Jill's perspective not mine)

    Here is the link for Riverby:

    We did business for many years with the wonderful Steve Cymrot and his family who still run that location and one in Fredericksburg. Hopefully since you are on Capitol Hill they might come evaluate the books.

    We also sold to used bookseller "Jim" Toole at Capitol Hill Books:

    There is a longstanding used bookselling chain called Second Story as well. Don't have any experience with them.

    There is a local used bookstore in Alexandria called Book Bank. Their site lists the categories they are interested in, which may be helpful to you in general:

    Walls of Books in DC might be an option. I like their quirky Facebook posts. Usually.

    Both Amazon and Abebooks have seller forums.  Try there, you can probably find some buyers who will buy in bulk.

    Hello! My neighbor runs a rare-book business in Richmond and I asked him about this. Here is what he said: 

    Contact my colleague Chuck Roberts (croberts [at] at Wonder Book & Video in Frederick, MD.  He's also a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, works in the DC area, and has the capacity to process c.20,000 volumes in a close-out situation.  He has a huge warehouse where such collections can be triaged, and I cannot think of anyone else more qualified to deal with such bulk of general and (hopefully) rarer books.  Chuck may already know of this individual.  If not, he would be able to inspect the collection and--most importantly--process it.

    Our in-laws had a small, used bookshop (that started as an online business for out of print and rare books) and because of my FIL aging and inability to keep it up, they just sold the store.  They had the best luck finding not for profit organizations that might be interested in the inventory and existing business to sell their books - like a "Friends of the Library" group, or similar.

    Asking around at booksales and libraries may be a good way to get leads - good luck!

    Although it’s not a cash transaction, Baltimore’s Book Thing gives away books for free. You might check them out since the guy who ran it suffered a terrible fire a number of years ago and only just recently started back up. He’s a cool, weird dude. 

    Amazon has a bookstore in DC now. Maybe they would be interested. Or try to contact people who sell books through Amazon. Or, let an auction house sell them. Good luck!

    When my grandfather passed away with a large personal library that had academic interest, we donated his library to a nearby university. Perhaps call around to local universities, colleges, or schools to see if any of them would be interested in the collection, especially if there are rare editions? That would likely result in a tax deduction.

    What about transitioning to an employee /worker owned model? It's a great way for private business owners to retire and also continue their legacy. I recently heard a fantastic presentation from the nonprofit Project Equity. Google them. Their mission is to assist with this type of analysis and transition. They are Bay Area based, but work with small and medium businesses across the country.

    Do you know if he is a member of the IOAB (International Online Booksellers Association: They support their members in time of transition and they might be able to offer you good advice even if he is not a member. I would also recommend you call an established bookseller in the DC area for their ideas. It is quite traditional for booksellers to buy the stock of booksellers who are going out of business, and, if the stock doesn't interest them, they will have other suggestions for you as they get asked the same question all the time. I am an antiquarian bookseller and a member of the national trade organization the ABAA - I would be happy to put you in touch with another ABAA dealer in that area or you could look them up on the ABAA website ( - feel free to call me at our shop in San Francisco: John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller, (415) 986-5826.

    If you'd like an introduction to folks at the Internet Archive, who could be interested in digitizing books in the collection to share with the world, let me know. ("The Phantom Tollbooth" is one of my most favorite books... I've got a copy signed by Norton Juster!)

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

Selling Books Online

Feb 2008

I was thinking of selling books online & got as far as the legal agreement on Amazon. It seemed from this that you could be liable for anything & everything. Do you need to be a proper business, get a license, whatever? Is selling online the way to go for a sahm or is it more trouble than it is worth? Thanks. anon

Selling books online at Amazon is ok for specialty books--I've sold a few old academic references, cookbooks and a couple of knitting books, but there is a lot of penny fiction out there, and no one wanted my extra titles. A swap or store credit may be better for getting rid of fiction.

You also have to charge enough to cover the large chunk Amazon takes as a fee. In general, for online sales, my friends and I have found anything that grosses less than $10 is not worth it. For example, with a large $5 children's book, Amazon took $3 so very much not worth my time, since it cost a lot to ship. Buy a large pack of cheap mailers (or use recycled ones) and send everything media mail. For larger books, it may cost more to ship them than the $3.99 Amazon credits.

The sales trickle in so expect to go to the post office every couple of days unless you buy online postage, and even then for heavier stuff you have to go to the post office.

In general, it's worthwhile if you have some good specialty books, so give it a go! suzanne

I sell my old text books on-line, as well as old CD's, DVD's, etc. It doesn't take very much time at all-and it's a good way to get rid of clutter. I don't think you would need a business license unless you are making a profit and buying books dirt cheap and selling them for more than the purchase price. But, then again, I'm not a CPA! I just figure I am getting a little bit extra money than I would at the local used bookstore for my sales. There are also a few other websites out there that offer the same services as and Big aversion to clutter

You might want to check out as well. Very cool site and idea. Works well for my partner, who's gotten rid of a number of obscure books that way. rahel

We use to sell our books. Thea

How to sell my dad's books

May 2007

I am wondering what I can do with my father's books that are not only taking over his home, but his life. He has been collecting, and hoarding, books for the past 25 years, and it has gotten out of control. The walls of his tiny rental are lined with book shelves and the floors are covered in stacks of books.

Most of them are in great condition and I doubt that they have even been read. There is a large variety of topics, but I am guessing a lot of them are historical, art, & novels. I am wondering how I can get rid of these books other than take them to Half-Price books or Pegasus--that would take a hundred trips and they may not even take most of them. I think they prefer newer things, don't they? I am hoping he can get some money for them. Is it worth having a garage-book sale? Would anyone even go? Any help here is appreciated, please! Drowning In Books!

My husband has a used bookstore. He would be more than happy to go to your father's house and buy books.He frequently goes to people's homes to buy collections. Depending on what they are, and what his store currently needs, he would buy anywhere from a almost all of them. If interested in discussing this with him, please email with your phone number and he will call you. It is possible you could get someone from a local used bookstore to do the same thing. You could try calling Pegasus, Moe's, Black Oaks, etc. You have my empathy about having to deal with a hoarder....I live with one!

I have had good success selling books online via You don't pay to post a listing, but do pay a commission. In order to make money, you also have to send things media mail, which involves trips to the post office. Not super convenient, but I have sold a lot of books this way. Gleaning books

The most time consuming way but also the way to make the most money (if you don't factor your time) is Amazon. It is pretty easy to list the books, figure out what to sell them for and you don't have to deal with collecting payment - Amazon does it for you. They pay you more for shipping than it costs to send a book Standard Shipping Speed (i.e. Media Mail) so you make a buck that way too. I only have listed 20 or so books at a time and I just have a stack of padded envelopes I bought in bulk at Kelly Paper in Oakland. I know the costs if it is 1lb or 2lbs, etc and it is pretty easy.

Bulk sales are harder. The book stores are quite picky and don't pay much. Garage sales are also low payers and who knows if you would sell them.

When I want to get rid of things in a hurry I donate them to a charity and take a tax write-off. That only works if your dad itemizes on his taxes.

I looked a while back on BPN on ways to get rid of books and all of these were listed plus libraries. Good luck.

I know that Moes Bookstore, on Telegraph, will do a housecall if you have a substantial amount of used, apparently quality books to sell. Give them a call. Pegasus, Black Oak, etc. may do housecalls too. anon

Second-hand bookstores for toddler books

March 2006

My 2.5 yrs old toddler boy has suddenly taken a keen interest in books. I am looking for stores which carry good second hand books at cheap rates. Thanks AAG

Try the book sales at your local preschools. Little Elephant Montessori at Rockridge(5782 Miles Ave., Oakland; 510-597-1963) had a big Book and Bake Sale not too long ago. Some of the kids' books were brand new and most of the secondary ones were in excellent condition, priced between $0.50 to $1.50. The parents and teachers were friendly and helpful. Give that a try! anon

I'd go to your neighborhood library. I started taking my child when she was a toddler and sometimes I'd go by myself. Get a big stack of books -- they have board books if your child isn't ready for real pages. Exchange them for a new stack every week or two. It's a fun outing, and best of all it's totally free.

Toy-Go-Round on Solano, in Albany, has a large selection of used children's books, as well as parenting books for adults. They sell them for half the retail price. They are in very good condition. You can also bring in books you have, that you no longer want. Tuesdays they give an additional % off the price. Lori

Toy Safari in Alameda (park street at Central) has a nice selection of used books. You can also trade used toys there for store credit. This is a GREAT place! alameda mom

Where to find good quality used childrens' books

Oct 2005

Buying books can be costly. Does anyone know where I can buy used, in good condition childrens books? mom of a voracious reader

Do you have a library card? Using the library is a great, free way to give a voracious reader access to a lot of new books. Another big plus: the library has an online system that you can reserve books and have them waiting for you when you get there.

If you still want to buy, you could try Green Apple Books in the city, or Black Oak Books in Berkeley for used books, two great used book stores.

I like Half Price Books, which just moved from Solano Ave to downtown Berkeley, 2036 Shattuck Ave. at Addison 510.526.6080 Hours: 9 a.m.- 11 p.m. Every Day

Also The Friends of the Berkeley Public Library Bookstore, Sather Gate Mall, 2433 Channing Way, Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4:00pm, 510 841-5604. Cheaper but more limited selection.

A third good option is to check books out of the library. Berkeley Public Library has a *very* impressive childrens collection and is free whether you live in Berkeley or not. If not, there's probably a good library close to your home. David

All of the thrift shops sell gently used kids books. Bambino Thrift shop (College near broadway) and the one for Alta Bates (College near Keith) sell books for $0.25 to $0.50 each. Pendragon Books (college near crepevine) and Half Price Books (On Solano) often have some heavily discounted books. Child's Play on College (across from Cotton and Company...a bit down from Claremont Ave). Also, the Oakland Library has The Bookmark Bookstore in downtown Oakland (721 Washington Street). Daedalus books sells new and remainder books online and in a catalog - Happy reading! Book lover!

Toy's Go Round on Solano Ave is an excellent place for used children's books. I usually get some good buys at yard sales posted on the Marketplace and school rummage sales. But most of all: Why buy? Do you really want to own everything your son reads? Most of the books aren't worth keeping beyond a one-time read. I'd recommend going to your local library once a week and get a fresh supply of free books to read and return. book lover

Several places: Pegasus Books(in Rockridge on College Ave. next to Crepevine & across from Rockridge Kids), Half-Price Books (on Solano), Garage sales, posts on this website. You can also get new children's books at discounted prices at Barnes & Nobles & Borders in their sales sections. Another mom with avid reader

Toy Go Round, on Solano Ave., in Albany has a great selection of children's books for all ages. They sell them for half of the retail price. Further up Solano, in Berkeley, is Pegasus (a book store) that has quite a few children's books used and new. In Oakland, on College, A Child's Place has some used kids' books. Further south on College is Pendragon, a book store connected to Pegasus, which has a selection of children's books both used and new. If you're looking to spend very little there are thrift stores all over the place that usually have children's books. The quality is more hit and miss, but the prices are really low. Lori

Hiya, I would like to let everyone know about a wonderful new resource that I have found. It is a website. . I am always on the lookout for ways to keep the costs of books down. We love the library. However occasionally there are some books I want to keep them, or that i need for longer than the aloted checked out time there are also some resource books that I wish that i owned. This site was recommended to me for Sci Fi and Fantasy book. However I have gone crazy with Kids books. At all ages and levels. As A homeschooler this has really helped my keep my costs down and the general Quality of the books that I recieve are awesome. I have gotten a number of great books off of this site. I have also gotten some that I was really interested in but after reading found that they didn't work for me and the great thing is that I could swap them back for something that does. Quite literally something for everyone at every level and interest. I am hoping to Share this resource with more people. Here is what I like about itV

Easy to search. Easy to list books. It is free to get started. It is a 1 on 1 trade the only cost you pay is shipping (usually $1.48). It is totally ok for books to be used or old library books. They must be readable, not smell, have intact covers, and no water damage. They do trade in hardbacks. As well as Audio Books both tapes and CD's (slightly more for Audio 2 to 1 trade), if you find a title you want you can purchase tokens/credits to get them if you don't already have them. Credits are earned each time someone receives one of the books that you sent. And you can set up a wish list. If the book currently isn't in their system they will let you know when it comes in or you can set it up to automatically get it then. A reminder list for titles you are interested in but are not ready to get yet. It emails you when someone requests one of your books or when something on your wish list comes in. and did I mention it was Easy to use. Please check out this cool idea. Please tell them I sent you. Thanks Maragaret

I was a voracious reader too when I was a child, and I have very fond memories of frequent trips to the children's room at the public library to get new books to read. If you haven't already, I encourage you to take your child to the library to get his/her first library card--always a thrill! Particularly in the summer, the libraries often hold reading ''contests'' for kids who read lots of books, which your child might enjoy participating in. anon

Try Toy Go Round on Solano Avenue in Albany ( nice variety and 10% off every Tuesday!), Half-Price Books, also on Solano Avenue but up closer to the Alameda, and Darla's on San Pablo Avenue (at Stockton) in El Cerrito. Ruth

Black Oak Books on Shattuck in Berkeley has an excellent and large selection of used children's books in good condition. The bookstore run by the Berkeley Public library (at the Central location and their annex) is another source. Mom of big readers

Your child may be ready for the library if he's reading on his own. If not, Black Oak has a pretty good selection, I did a bunch of trade-ins and got credit enough for baby's first year. Library fan

It's not the closest place in the world, but Thrift Town up in El Sobrante has about 40 feet of used books [mostly from the scholastic book club it seems]. Whenever we're going take a long car trip, I go up there, spend about 10 bucks, and can offer 20 - 30 new books to my bookworm 4 year old. We just counted this morning, by the way, 14 Magic School Bus books in our collection, all priced somewhere between 29 and 49 cents. -Jean

Where to sell a ton of used books

July 2005

I am getting rid of a ton of books from my personal library. Lots of novels, some classics, some travel books... Any ideas on a bookstore that would take them, even for a little bit of money? I'm happy to donate them to a library book sale, but if I can get anything for them, I'd like to try that first... Jen

It takes a bit more time, but i've had great luck at I've also sold books at Moe's on telegraph in berkeley. liz

We recently sold a whole mess of books to Moe's (Telegraph) and Pendragon (5560 College). They are fairly choosy, but it's worth the trip, especially if you take payment in store credit (but that does mean buying more books!). I also sell quite a bit on, but that can be tedious as it's one-at-a-time. Whatever didn't sell, we donated to Friends of the Oakland Library ( for their Bookmark store in downtown Oakland. room on my bookshelves

My first recommendation would be Pendragon in Rockridge (I'm biased, though -- I used to work there) or its sister stores in Berkeley Pegasus on Shattuck or Solano. You'll get a good price but will have to carry away what they don't buy. If you go to Half Price Books they'll pay less but take all of your books off your hands. Liz

Books for the Barrios might be interested in your books.

Do we know each other? Because I would have shared this in person had you asked. I have explored this before, in trying to make a few extra bucks. A used bookstore will take some books, but they have to be in really good condition, the genres and titles have to have a market, and they cannot be romance novels. Even then, the amount you get in return is so pitiful to make it not worth your time.

You can try selling them on ebay or, but I found, when doing this, that there was no interest, except for the very compelling titles. And when there was interest, it was only at bargain basement prices. Again, it's not worth your time, when you consider that you have to write up a good ad (maybe with pics), pay ad fees, figure out postage fees by weight, packaging, taking it to the post office, etc.

Unfortunately, there is hardly any market in used romances. If you have 3 grocery bags full of used romance novels, I'm guessing you can net $3-5 total off the lot. And that's how I'd sell them if I went the ebay route - as a lot, because people seem to think buying in lots is fun and like Christmas. Were it me, I would give it all to a friend that shares your reading interest or give the entire lot to a local library, and feel like I did a good thing that day (or I'd freecycle the lot). -I think I'm your nanny.

Green Apple Books on Clement St. in San Francisco is a great place to bring your used books to sell. book lover

I recently sold a bunch of books to Walden Pond (on Grand Ave in Oakland). They are pretty picky about what they will take, but if you read the kind of books that they sell, they will probably buy most of your books, and they definitely pay a fair price.

Try I have sold many used books this way - it's easy to post them for sale, and if you price them below the average asking price, you can get rid of them fairly quickly. The only hassle is that you must mail the books to the buyer ( reimburses you for some postage), so if your local post office is really busy all the time, it might not be for you. Kim

Selling valuable old books and LPs

May 2004

Hello, everyone: I am trying to sell some old LPs and books that I cleaned out of my father-in-law's attic. They are all in good condition, and my father-in-law tells me that some are quite valuable. Anyone know of a reputable business that buys old LPs and one that will come out to the house and look at the books? I'd like to get rid of each them en-masse. Many thanks! Kelly

Call David Thornton at Discovery Bay Old Books. He buys and sell old books. He may have a reference for the LPs. DL

Buy used baby books, sell general books?

Oct 2003

I want to buy some used baby books and also have a lot of used general books (fiction/non-fiction) which I would like to sell or trade for kids books. Any ideas of bookstores in the East Bay that are good for this? gabrielle

The Lafayette Book Store is in the process of opening a new used store adjacent to their successful store in downtown Lafayette, and is looking for books. Claire

I think one of the best and best-stocked used bookstores around is Black Oak Books, on Shattuck and Vine in Berkeley. They even let you buy new books with trade credit. Wendy

Try Diesel or Pendragon - near one another on College in Rockridge.