How to use Powell’s Books for uncluttering

Reader Allison, as part of our month of sharing, made the following suggestion for reducing book clutter by using Powell’s online book store:

To sell your books, just go to the Powell’s site to the “Sell us your books” section, and type in the ISBN numbers for all the books you want to sell. Powell’s gives you instant feedback on which books they are accepting at that time, and they make you an offer for how much store credit they will give you for your books. If you accept the offer, they provide a prepaid media mail shipping label. You just box up your books, drop them off at the post office, and Powell’s will give you store credit for your books once they’ve received them and inspected them. You need to have a Powell’s account to receive the store credit, of course.

I love this method, because it just never made sense to me to try to sell my books on ebay for $1 or $2 a pop, but I knew my books had some value and I needed to pare down the number of books in my house.

Powell’s made it easy — I sold my books in one batch instead of piece-meal, and the free shipping was great! Plus, selling books to Powell’s supports this amazing independent bookseller, and helps the environment by putting used books back onto the store shelves instead of newly printed ones.

I am much happier — my closets are less cluttered, and I have about $50 in Powell’s virtual credit, which I can use on their site to buy gifts and books that I will actually read.

This is a terrific suggestion, Allison! Thank you for sharing it with us, and I’m glad to read that you’ve reduced the book clutter in your home. And, it should go without saying but we just wanted you to know, Allison is not an employee of Powell’s, just a loyal fan.

38 Comments for “How to use Powell’s Books for uncluttering”

  1. posted by Bob on

    You need to sell a lot of books to make up for Powell’s full price they charge for books.

    A book I wanted is 39.99 at Powell. It’s 26.39 at Amazon.

  2. posted by Liz on

    Thanks for the tip. I will check this out. We’re moving soon, and I’m in serious downsizing mode. Powell’s just might be another avenue for getting rid of some books.

  3. posted by Chutters on

    In the UK, I use this book swapping service: http://www.bookhopper.com/

  4. posted by lesliet on

    A similar book-swapping service in the US is paperbackswap.com. You pay only for postage and get one credit for every book shipped.

  5. posted by rekindled on

    I sell my old books (and DVDs) on Amazon Marketplace. You set the selling price and you get cash, not store credit. Of course Amazon take a small percentage of the price, but then so do Ebay.

    It is a little more time consuming as you have to wait for individuals to order your item, and you have to be able to post it within 2 working days, but it works great for me.

  6. posted by LivSimpl on

    I love Powell’s! I grew up in the Portland area (where they’re located) and I went there every chance I got. It has its own, unique personality – much better than any big box retailer or online source (Amazon).

    Independent shops like this are few and far between nowadays and if you have to pay a bit more on occasion to support them, I’m OK with that.

    Oh yeah. And as a proponent of simplicity, I love the idea of reusing books. :)

    http://www.LivSimpl.com

  7. posted by Jody on

    Wow! I just spent 15 minutes purging my shelves, setting up my account, and printing out the “prepaid” shipping label, I will soon be off to the post office. AND it’s only 8:15 am on a Saturday. AND I made some money. Pretty good for sitting around in my pajamas, I say. Thanks! This Powell’s tip is great!

  8. posted by julia on

    Another great option is Half Price Books. If you live near one, they will take the whole pile and give you cash on the spot. I’ve divested myself of nearly 500 books this way over the past two months. Not that anyone but me can tell, but I am getting there!

  9. posted by julia on

    sorry, I forgot the URL: http://halfpricebooks.com/find_a_store.html

  10. posted by Stormy on

    I highly recommend PaperBackSwap.com. I list all my read books there. When someone wants one, I mail it to them and I get a credit. I can then use that credit to order any book listed by another PaperBackSwap member. I keep my wishlist there and whenever a book I want becomes available, they hold it for me and let me know.

  11. posted by Grey on

    Thank you! This is just what I needed today.

  12. posted by Deanne on

    I also highly recommend PaperBackSwap.com. It’s a really cheap way to get new books and keep from having lots of books you don’t really want. You can also specify if you don’t want books that have been in a house with a smoker or that are mildewed so that you know they are in good condition. And it’s pretty cool to see how far the books travel.

  13. posted by brent on

    I’ve donated the bulk of my book surplus to the local library. Not only do I get the benefit of uncluttering, but I can also read the books again any time I want!

  14. posted by Small Cents on

    I wrote a post on this not too long ago. Not about Powell’s specifically, but about some other sites. The best is bookscouter.com; it searches many sites (23) for you and lets you know which will buy your books. Most offer free shipping, and some offer payment by PayPal. I live in France, so can’t use this service often, only when I go back to the US for visits. I’ll be going to the US in a week, and half my suitcase is books I’ll be selling. I’m definitely going to check out Powells now too- I agree that it’s essential to support independent bookstores.

  15. posted by Ed Eubanks on

    Re: Brent and library donations:

    This is a good move, and it almost always helps local libraries; however, a couple of things should be kept in mind.

    First, there are a number of books that the library already has too many copies of, and can’t get rid of the ones they have. Thus, check with your local library about titles or genres that they prefer you NOT donating!

    Second, realize that most of the time libraries won’t take the books you donate and shelve them for circulation. Libraries purchase very specific numbers of books in each genre and category (academic libraries have to do so, because a certain percentage of their volumes must be new releases, etc. for accreditation purposes). Most libraries host an annual or semi-annual sale of books– and most of the books donated end up in these sales.

    Third (or second and a half): Thus, donations STILL help libraries– because the funds generated from the book sales will go 100% back into buying books and other needs. My point is more that you shouldn’t expect to walk into your local library and pull the specific copy you donated off of the shelf to check out! In fact, there’s no guarantee that the titles you donate will actually be on the shelf…

    Just a few thoughts from a booklover who’s worked for a library.

  16. posted by Aimee on

    We always donate to our library. It’s just so much better than the hassle of trying to sell them, plus it benefits us in the long term (the book will either end up on the shelf, or the money used for new books).

  17. posted by Susan on

    NICE!
    I just sold a whole box of books- and I don’t care that I didn’t get “full price”– the post office is closer than the nearest used book store. I made $76 dollars without leaving my desk, cleared out a few bookshelves, and I’m building a credit account for buying Xmas present books this year (we’re a bookish clan, and it gets pricey.).

  18. posted by N. & J. on

    I’ve had great success selling on half.com. It’s like Amazon or Ebay in that you sell them individually but you can post them all at once and ship them out as people purchase them. If you are signed up for paypal you can print a shipping label right online. You can also sell DVDs on half.com. I cleaned out my shelves and made over $200. It was great!

    N.

    http://badhuman.wordpress.com

  19. posted by Josh on

    Another fun option for east coast dwellers:

    The Book Thing of Baltimore
    http://www.bookthing.org/

  20. posted by Beverly on

    In addition to donating to the library, consider donating to nursing homes and hospice facilities. They will keep every book you donate unless it’s in bad condition and will be thrilled to get them. Also many hospices have thrift stores and these donations can be sold there and the money goes to the hospice.

  21. posted by L on

    Wow, no! Donate to the library. It gives you a tax deduction VASTLY in excess of the retail value of used books on Powell’s Web site.

  22. posted by Liz on

    I agree with Susan. I cleared out 59 books, earned over $100 in store credit (which will be NO PROBLEM for me to use toward gifts), plus the shipping is free. I’ve sold quite a few books on Amazon, too, but by the time you pay Amazon their “commission” plus making a trip to the post office every time you make a sale, going through Powell’s was MUCH easier.

  23. posted by JuleS on

    If you live in the Chciago area (or don’t mind paying shipping to Chicago for a great cause!) you can donate used books to Open Books, Chicago’s first literacy bookstore. Proceeds from bookstore sales will fund literacy programs for adults, children and families. The bookstore will open this fall in Chicago, but Open Books is already doing literacy projects all over the city and nearby suburbs. The website is http://www.open-books.org

  24. posted by amy on

    book crossing anyone? bit odd, but fun :-)

  25. posted by Adam Kayce on

    I love Powells — we used to live in Portland, and after reading “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston, we went through our books and took 90% of them to Powells. We must’ve made at least $300 in a few months that way.

    Powells is one of the big things I miss about not living in Portland…

  26. posted by kbw on

    One of our neighbours holds a bookswap party once or twice a year. Everyone drops off their old books the week before, the hosts and a few volunteers sort them by genre and on the day of everyone picks from their neighbours’ discarded volumes. AFterwords the homeless ones go to charity. Hmmm, evidently more of a clutter exchange. But it does mean you get to talk books, chose books and share books and go to party… no, I can’t think of a downside… carrying new-to-you books home, maybe?

  27. posted by Lisamarie on

    Another group choice is BookMooch.com. It works on a points systems. Trade in books you no longer want. Receive new (used) books that you do.

    I’ve been using it regularly to declutter my library.

  28. posted by Lori on

    For books that still retain some of their value, I prefer selling through Amazon, because in the long run I will get more back out of it than selling outright to a used bookstore. But below a certain price point, it’s just not worth my time.

    I have NEVER gotten a good price for anything from Half Price Books. On my last trip, they offered me a total of 50 cents for a stack of about a dozen popular week-old monthly magazines, ones they sell for a buck or two each. Not worth the trouble, and better to take the tax deduction for donating to charity. The trip before that, they offered a dollar for a book I ended up selling for $30+ on Amazon.

  29. posted by Cranky Scotty on

    Some quick thoughts…

    Charitable donations don’t always impact the bottom line of your taxes in your favor.

    Selling online to a retailer cuts into what goes into your pocket.

    Selling online via auctions is more work than some want to do and cuts into what goes into your pocket.

    Trading books with others doesn’t reduce clutter.

    Sometimes the garbage dumpster looks appealing.

    Of course there’s a positive side to all of these nay-saying points, and the need to be considered as well. Short story…folks should do what makes sense for them.

    And as far as Amazon goes…I’ll pay 10-20% more for a book at an independent bookseller before buying anything from that faceless bunch.

  30. posted by Kelsey on

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but what is the appeal of selling books online? Don’t you then have to box them up and mail them out? I just carry mine down the street to my local used book store, where I can trade 2 for 1 or simply get paid in cash, and anything they don’t want gets donated to the reading room of my grandparents’ retirement home. It’s simple and I get to support a local business.

  31. posted by Paul on

    Are there any similar services for Music CDs where you can get money or credit?

  32. posted by Ulyee Foobie on

    First, Powells and Bookscouter both are amazingly LOWBALL on what they offer for books. I’m talking three month old books that won awards; Amazon marketplace is as convenient, the commission is NOTHING compared to the lowball offer.

    I’m sure people are all happy and crunchie defending an indie, but their system either intentionally is taking money from potential customers, is outdated, or just doesn’t have the juice Amazon has. — Foob has Spoken

  33. posted by Brandon Checketts on

    FYI, I just added PowellsBooks as another site that is searched on BookScouter.com.

  34. posted by bonzo on

    CKY books is another online site that actually offered up a pretty high price for one of my random books ($13 – and i was ready to just donate it!). we took a stack and compared them between Powell’s and CKY – went with the better price and/or whichever was willing to take them (very different collections, apparently). got my check in the mail from CKY before powell’s has even acknowledged receipt of my package – and sent at same time.

    powell’s now offers store credit OR paypal (minus a small fee, of course). i agree that their selling prices are high enough that i would just take paypal, and buy via amazon or a local store.

    has anyone else had trouble / delays with powell’s? i’m about to email them – over 2 weeks and no info on status. CKY has an online status option, which is nice – can’t find it if powell’s has one.

  35. posted by bonzo on

    update – after dropping an email to powell’s they explained that their staff has been cut back because of the recession, and the usual “2 week” window they promise has been expanded to 2-3 weeks. but their money came through on paypal, so i’m happy.

    one more problem though – they don’t tell you what each book is worth. you can figure it out if you keep track of the total as you add additional books individually … but CKY does show what each book is worth.

    someone else commented that the prices these places pay is too low to bother. usually they buy books for about 1/3 of what they intend to sell them at – and used books of course sell for much cheaper than new, so be advised. if you don’t have a local bookstore that buys from consumers, these on-line options are good alternatives. any leftovers can obviously go to a local library (although in Chicago, they won’t take ‘em) or goodwill / salvation army.

  36. posted by Amanda on

    i am new to this website. they sent me an email. but where exactly do i have to send the books to? and they said they are paying for the shipping within the US?

  37. posted by Pity-er on

    Amanda – I do hope you were only briefly confused. For Powell’s, part of the process of registering your items to sell to them involves printing out a mailing label, which you then attach to your packaged-up books. The label has the address as well as the code necessary for the post office to charge THEM (not you) for the mailing.

  38. posted by Kush on

    I sent books to Powell and just recieved an email that im not getting paid for them because they are in “poor” condition. Two of the books were absolutely new, not opened! Rip-off! They arent returning the books so they obviously will be selling them but not giving me the money i deserve!

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