Tips and tricks to get more bucks for selling your books

Don't chuck books, get paid to get rid of 'em instead

I love big books and I cannot lie, but one thing you can't deny... is most modern books hold their value about as well as cars and, in my case, take up more space in my house. But don't chuck 'em – I've tips and tricks on how to sell books for the highest price, plus where's best to donate books that won't sell.

For me, nothing beats the feel and the smell of a real book – that's something modern technology can't beat.

But if you've moved to an e-reader, or have had a bit of a clear out, and you've books you're not sure what to do with, don't put them in the bin, or even the recycling – the string and/or glue used in books makes them difficult to recycle, so most sadly end up in landfill.

Instead, I'll show you how a little effort can make money from your book collection. So grab a cuppa and read on, Macduff (apologies to Shakespeare for the misquote in the pursuit of puns). 

Selling via special book-selling apps vs eBay

We used to ignore each other with books, now we ignore each other with smartphones, but here the phone's actually vital, so don't put it down yet as it could make you money and save you time.

MSE Jenny's Boost Your Income guide has taught us that usually we'll get the most money selling things on eBay or Facebook marketplace, but it also mentions apps/websites allowing you to sell old DVDs, CDs, games, and crucially to this blog... books.

But where's best to sell? I've volunteered as tribute, and have a hunger to put it to the test. Here's what I did:

  • I compared the top three apps – We Buy Books, Ziffit and Music Magpie – against the minimum price each book sold for recently on eBay. 
  • Then I decided whether to sell to an app or on eBay – and I'll show you how to decide.

Finally, I'll reveal how much money I made and whether I think it's worth it. 

Apps vs eBay - where can you get the highest price for books?

See the table below for the names of my books, the recommended retail price (the original price of the books), the trade-in prices using the top three apps, and the price of recent eBay sales (❌ means the app wouldn't take the book).

I did my price checks and selling a good few months ago, so be aware all prices may no longer be the same - though this blog's more about how to do it than getting exact prices anyway.

Book name RRP We Buy Books Ziffit MusicMagpie Lowest price sold on eBay
Head-Dress Badges of the British Army Volume 1 £65 £2.50 £5 £25 (by me)
Head-Dress Badges of the British Army Volume 2 £42.50 £2.75 £3.70 £25 (by me)
Mysterious Powers & Strange Forces Usborne Pocketbooks £2.25 £2.48 £3.50 £3 £16.50 (by me)
Heaven & Earth: Unseen by the Naked Eye £29.95 £2.11 £1.30 44p £3.49
Mistress Cromwell £9.99 £2.23 £1.40 71p £4.35
The Pendle Witches £2 £1.25 £1.20 69p £6 (by me)
Very British Problems: The Most Awkward One Yet £12.99 17p 14p £3.27
Mist Over Pendle £5.99 15p 21p £4.03
The Enormous Turnip (Picture book) £5.99 25p 24p £3.70
Written in Bones £7.99 £1.29 70p 8p £4.48
Oxford Japanese Mini Dictionary £7.99 £2.38 90p £2.91
TOTAL £192.64 £17.56 £17.70 £5.51 £98.73

It's no contest, selling on eBay would net you the most money pretty much every time – netting you just over half of what you'd pay for this, err, somewhat eclectic selection of books I somehow own if you bought new.

Yet EACH eBay listing needs the research above for what it'd sell for, photographs, an accurate description, eBay fees, trips to the Post Office – so you’ll need to decide for yourself what your minimum price is to make all this worth it – mine's £5, or £3 if I really want it gone! If I can't get that price, I turn to the apps...

When is it worth using a book-selling app?

Selling on a book app may not net you the highest price, but it can save you time.

You can print a label and either drop off your box at a collection point, or get your box picked up from your home if you're selling over £5 worth (and it weighs over 9kg with Ziffit), and postage is free. You also don't pay any other fees or spend time answering messages like you'd have to on eBay. 

Also you can send books in bulk, so you only have to do this once per box. 

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide which works best for you and what’s more important – time or money – but if you won't get much on eBay, these apps might be the way to go.

Top tip: Check apps for codes

Make sure to check the apps for short-lived codes where you could get an extra 5% for signing up, or 10% for a short amount of time in an offer as this could make one app worth using over another.

We've a code for Ziffit* that'll get you an extra 20% back on what you sell. Add the code MSM20 in the app until 11.59pm on Wednesday 31 August. You'll be able to use it once per account.

We've a code for We Buy Books* that'll get you an extra 20% back on what you sell. Just add the code WBB13195 in the app until 11.59pm on Wednesday 31 August. You'll be able to use it if you've already used the app before, and you can use it to send more than one lot of books in.

Do note that even with the codes, Ziffit or We Buy Books might not get you the best price for every book, so try checking Music Magpie* as well, just in case.

For all three of these apps, you'll need to trade in at least £5 worth of books, games, CDs, or any other item they accept. For Ziffit and We Buy Books, you'll need to send in either £5-worth, or 10+ items.

Quick questions

  • How much do I have to send to get my boxes collected?

    For Ziffit, if your books/games/CDs/DVDs weigh over 9kg (previously 5kg), you'll be able to book a courier to collect from your house for free. If it's under 5kg, you'll have to take it to a Collect+ store (find your nearest) or InPost locker (find your nearest). You can either choose to print a label at home, or if you don't have a printer you can ask Ziffit to send you a label in the post instead. When I requested this, it took about two working days to arrive.

    For We Buy Books, if your books/games/CDs/DVDs are worth over £5, you can choose to book an Evri courier to collect from your house for free, or take it to an Evri postal point. You'll need to print your label at home, or at the Evri drop-off point (find your nearest), but do be sure to select 'print in store' when looking for a drop-off point if you need this.

    For Music Magpie, if your books/games/CDs/DVDs/other are worth over £5, you'll be able to book an Evri courier to pick up from your house for free. Alternatively, you can choose to send via Royal Mail or via an Evri parcel shop with either a label or QR code sent to you for printing a label at home, or at the drop-off location where available.

  • Can I trade in any book in any condition?

    My assumption is that if you're an avid reader you're taking care of your books, but all book apps have similar rules for condition. Things like missing dust jackets, writing or annotations, water damage, and missing pages are a no-no. Check out the Ziffit guide to condition, WeBuyBooks, and see MusicMagpie here.

Tricks and tips to decide between eBay and book apps

Using the three apps above to figure out what you'd get back for your books is relatively quick and straightforward, simply download the app, scan the barcode, and a price will pop up and add the item to your selling basket. Not every book will be taken by every app, so here's a few of my tricks and top tips:

  • Got kids? Get them to scan the barcodes - make it a fun game, and if you've multiple phones and multiple kids you can try more than one app to see which is best, and whose total is the highest.

  • Surprised about the price? Check eBay - if you've a book you don't think will sell and it comes up at £2 or more, it's worth checking eBay. You could find out it's become a collectable, like my 1972 Mysterious Powers & Strange Forces book, and get paid more than you spent!

  • Check any niche books - if you've a niche book, it might be worth more, like my Head-Dress Badges of The British Army books I sold for £50 on eBay, instead of the paltry £8.70 I was offered via apps.

  • Check for writing/pen marks/damage - book apps can refuse books, and you'd then have to pay if you want them back (some apps refuse to return them!) so be sure to check for any writing or damage to the book before you send it. See below for what to do with really damaged books.

  • Book signed by the author? - if it's signed or first edition, these sorts of books sell for more on eBay so are worth listing.

  • Popular paperback book? - chances are many other people have already sent the book in, so it might no longer be accepted. On the flip side, if it's really popular apps might want more stock, so don't discount it just because it's popular.

Would I use these apps again? How much did I make selling books?

So in my experience, which is best for books, apps or eBay? I've sent four boxes of books off to apps, as well as selling seven single books, and one set of three books on eBay (not mentioned above as none of the book apps would take them, no it wasn't Fifty Shades!)

So how much did I make in the end for each, and was it worth it?

For the apps, all together I sent in 53 items and made £41.21. On eBay, I sold 10 books and made £92.50 (before fees, which totalled £10.20 as I listed some items on 80% off fees promotion weekends). So all together, minus fees,  that's £123.51 for 63 items. Sending in reused boxes meant I didn't need to pay extra for packaging.

It works out at just shy of £2 per item, but worth it? I certainly think so! I'll definitely use book selling apps again, coupled with the trick I mentioned above to sift out which books sell better on eBay. I feel great about decluttering sustainably, and making a bit of money back for my trouble at the same time – and hopefully my tips will help you do it too!

My books aren't selling on eBay & apps won't take 'em, now what?

No, step away from the bin! Let's talk about books in terms of condition, whether it's dog-eared pages, notes in the margins, snapped spines, or ripped dust jackets. Here's what to do...

  • Good or nearly new quality books that aren't being taken by apps or selling for much on eBay can be passed to friends or family, given to charity shops, even taken to your local library (if they accept donations), or a Little Free Library. See my blog on How to borrow books for free as long as you like, even if you don't live near a library for more info on how to find these little boxes of books to donate to.

  • Books in damaged but readable condition can still be passed along to a Little Free Library. Even if the book's got a coffee stain or got wet and has been dried and the pages are still readable, people will still read them!

  • Book in damaged and unreadable condition could be caused by spilling something like glue or food on some of the pages, making them unreadable and unrecyclable. Here's where you can get a bit creative with crafts. You could make a hollow book safe (like this Wikihow), or use it as a floating shelf made from a book (like this ehow). You can also use old pages for wrapping paper, or decoupage, for resin jewellery, origami, or even as paper for paintings.

    Of course, I'd only recommend this for books that are contemporary and too badly damaged to use for anything else – be sure to check your book isn't antique or rare before doing any of this.

Have you had any book selling successes? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter.