With all the different media which I now deal in, it’s sometimes easy to forget where it all started for me. I opened my Amazon trading account in January 2007 and for a long time focused almost entirely on buying and selling good old-fashioned physical books.
Oh I wish I could turn back the clock and start all over again, knowing what I know now – don’t we all! I almost certainly would have told myself to make hay whilst the sun shone.
For the sun was most certainly shining on the resale value of second-hand books seven years ago. I could pick up almost any book at that time, list it on Amazon and be confident of a fantastic return on my investment.
Well, times have changed and the second-hand book market has since become very competitive, and prices within some book genres have tumbled. Nevertheless, buying and selling second-hand books is still a profitable past-time, assuming you are selective in your buying.
I have four or five favourite book genres, which even today generate decent returns for me. However, within this newsletter I want to focus on what I consider to be my single most profitable book genre of all; one which has generated £341.81 in sales over the last 30 days from just 26 books… an average of £13.14 per book! Nice!
This book genre is ‘academic books’.
I want to briefly outline:
- Why academic books are so profitable.
- The academic sub-niches which excel.
- The possible pitfalls of buying and selling academic books.
- Where you can source academic books.
To facilitate this scrutiny, I would like to show you a screenshot of the 26 books in question, sold over the last 30 days:
Why academic books are so profitable
Simply put, academic books tend to retain high prices on the second-hand market because they cost a lot to buy when they were originally brand new. For the most part these are long and complex tomes and usually very heavy into the bargain. A great deal of work goes into the research, writing and printing of these heavyweights and, as such, much of the information stays topical for students for some time after publication.
It’s this longevity of shelf-life which ensures the continued high prices. Students, at the beginning of their new year, are handed a required reading list by their tutors. Knowing how expensive the books are when brand new, tutors will usually allow their students to acquire second-hand books which might be several years old, but still relevant. It is this body of students who are the principle driving force behind the demand for this genre of book, and the beauty of it is that every year there are always new batches of students eager to buy!
If you look at the screenshot, you will see that books printed in 2007/8/9 still retain relatively high values.
The academic sub-niches which excel
The value within any particular academic book genre is determined by how evergreen and relevant the content is, and how often the book is revised and re-printed. Once again, if you look at my screen-shot you will get your answers.
Biology and mechanical engineering stay relevant longer, with less annual editions, compared to other topics such as law, which seems to generate new revisions annually, almost without fail.
Possible pitfalls of buying and selling academic books
Academic books are extremely heavy, so don’t fall for the mistake of listing them on sites such as Amazon hoping that their postage allowance of £2.80 will cover the P&P: it most definitely will not. You have to keep abreast of current postal rates and act accordingly by building in an additional postage allowance within your asking price.
Currently, I find that it is not cost-effective to use Royal Mail for books over 2 kilos: a category which many academic books find themselves in. Under these circumstances, I use an alternative service such as www.myhermes.com.
Where you can source academic books
As you would expect, academic books can be found in most places where second-hand books are usually sold:
- Jumble sales
- Car boot fairs
- Second-hand book shops
- Charity shops
If I were to pick a favourite source, I would plump for the Oxfam chain of bookshops as they tend to specialise in this area.
If this idea floats your boat and you would like to delve deeper, then you might be interested to know that I have created a specific business blueprint devoted entirely to the subject of buying and selling academic books. Within this blueprint (to be found in the bonus section of my website www.theprofitbox.co.uk), I reveal my very best resource for acquiring quality academic books for literally pennies in the pound.
We’ll catch up again this time next week. Meanwhile, happy hunting!