Updated on 02.20.07

How I Read The Latest Books For Nearly Nothing – And Sometimes Turn A Small Profit

Trent Hamm

I’m a book fetishist. I can’t help it – I want to read the latest hardback releases as soon as they come out. I used to drool over these releases, but I’ve discovered a very nifty way to keep tabs on the latest books at a very cheap price – and sometimes turn a small profit.

What I do is if I know a book is coming out in hardcover that I want to read, I buy it on the day of release at my bookseller of choice. I take it home and without hesitation immediately start reading it, putting aside anything else that I happen to be reading at the moment. Given my reading habits, I can usually knock that book off in about two or three days.

As soon as I’m done with it, I immediately eBay the book. This is where things get odd – given my discounts at my local bookstore, I can usually nearly break even by doing this, and I often turn a small profit. Not enough of a regular profit to become an online book reseller by any means, but

Here’s an example. Recently, Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon was released in hardback. My price for the book is about $19.60, or about $21 after sales tax. It’s about a three day read for me, so it would appear on eBay on November 24 and thus sell on December 1. Take a peek at what the book is currently selling for on eBay – in other words, about a $2-$3 profit for me, plus I had the opportunity to be the first on my block to read Pynchon’s latest.

I always use my “weird” eBay techniques and I follow reasonable best practices when I sell, so it usually goes quite well. Plus, most bidders seem not to notice that the item isn’t new because it is such a recent release; the used copy always bids up to the same realm as the new ones.

Please note that this technique isn’t a sure thing. It merely ensures that you’ll get a strong return on your investment in the book, minus the depreciation for reading it.

This is a great technique to use if you’re a book addict like I am. I’m able to keep up with the latest books, read them completely at my leisure, and avoid the often-long waits for new releases at my local library. Even better: I occasionally turn a little profit.

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  1. Mudbug says:

    No offense, but wouldn’t just waiting for the book to come to the library work just as well? That way there is no capital outlays at all. Being impatient and having the attitude of “I just got to have it today” is a little lame isn’t it? What about movies? Surely you wait for them to be released to the dollar movie theater. Don’t you? BTW Two snaps up for your blog! Keep it up.

  2. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    For starters, books are my passion. I love to read; it’s my primary entertainment, not movies or television. There are two big advantages to this strategy versus the library: no waiting list, and no “one week and you must return it because it is a new release” policy. I can read it on the day of release, finish it at my own pace, and recoup my costs quite easily while others are still ten deep in the queue at the libray – and only get a week to read the book.

  3. HC says:

    Okay, the Ebay idea is nice and all…

    But how the hell do you get through Pynchon in three days with a kid?

    I consider myself a fast reader, and even so I’d probably give myself a week to tackle that.

  4. Lyndyb says:

    I just discovered this site, so pardon the late comment. Reading is my biggest hobby, but I cut down costs by using the reserve feature at our public library. For a cost of just $1, the book is sent to your local branch and they notify you when it comes in.

    No, I don’t get it on the day of release, but I typically have it very quickly and can keep it for 3 weeks. For those books the library doesn’t get, I buy on Ebay, but only when they’re inexpensive. This is something I have to watch, as it can turn into an addiction of it’s own!

  5. Aaron says:

    I used to use reserve system at the library but found that it took forever to get the books I was after and there is absolutely no way to control when they arrive. I would end up getting a book (or sometimes multiple books) while I was in the middle of another book and wasn’t able to finish on time.

    I use a system similar to the one the author described. It’s worth a few dollars for the convenience of reading what I want when I want.

  6. Jeff says:

    There have been a couple of book series that we’ve wanted to get as soon as it comes out, so I can definitely relate to your article and appreciate the ideas for “breaking even”.

    A lot of times the local book resellers lower the price for pre-orders and some have a discount club that adds money; but before you plop down that chunk of change check out the prices online too.

    I’ve seen sometimes where Amazon.com, Buy.com or even Walmart.com has a better deal than the local book store.

    I also try to check out prices with a bunch of places using http://www.booksprice.com (or isbn.nu, etc.) and then order it online. This works really well for books that are pretty new, but not new enough that the local bookstore still has a big sale on it.

    And, for those older series books that I’ve gotten hooked on, I’d try services like http://www.bookmooch.com or http://www.paperbackswap.com to get an even better deal. (Almost 100% free)

    Take care,

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