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I’ve been selling books on Amazon full-time for more than two years now. In that time, I’ve learned which kinds of books are most worth sourcing and selling.
The best books to sell on Amazon are any books that show as profitable and in-demand on your book scanning app. That can include books from all different genres, but books from the following genres are typically more profitable than others:
- Computer books
- Business books
- Fantasy books
- New books
- Manga books
- Book sets
- Books without competing FBA offers
The rest of this article will discuss why these kinds of books are better to sell than others. I’ll also provide some sourcing and listing tips that will help you find these genres when you’re out sourcing.
To the surprise of no one, textbooks top this list of best books to sell on Amazon. There is no other category with such a high density of valuable books.
Though you’ll be relying on your scanner app to tell you which books to buy, there are some tell-tale physical signs that a textbook is worth something.
- The textbook was published recently
- The textbook has a barcode sticker over the original barcode ‒ this indicates it’s been sold before
- The textbook has a used sticker on the spine ‒ another indication of previously being sold
There are also certain kinds of textbooks that are typically worth more than other kinds.
Here’s the general rule of thumb of textbook value: the more money you can make using the skills taught by a textbook, the more that textbook is going to be worth.
Keeping that in mind, here are the textbook subjects you should prioritize scanning:
- Computer Science
To be honest, I could just as easily label this section “instructional books.” That’s basically what textbooks are ‒ books that teach you something.
When you list your textbooks on Amazon, I don’t recommend trying to sell them immediately.
Hold on to them until January or August, as those are the months most students get their syllabi and buy their textbooks for the upcoming semester. The increased demand sends textbook prices through the roof, and you can take advantage of this to increase your earnings.
As I mentioned in the previous section, the books that are worth the most are the ones containing information that can make people a lot of money.
Go look up the average salary of a software engineer, and you’ll see why books about computers fall into this category.
When I say “books about computers,” I’m specifically referring to books that teach you something related to computers:
- Programming languages
- Software programs
- Computer architecture
Most of these instructional books definitely fall under the textbook umbrella, but they’re so lucrative and valuable that they deserve their own section. If a book sale or book store has a computer section, I recommend heading there before any other section (unless there is a textbook section ‒ then hit that first).
Unlike computer books, there are quite a few business books that don’t fall under the umbrella textbook.
Business books can still bring you terrific profits though, because the people buying business books typically have more disposable income than buyers of other book categories.
This increased propensity for spending is especially important if you sell your books with FBA.
Because FBA offers get two-day Prime shipping, they offer more value than non-Prime merchant-fulfilled offers.
Buyers with a lot of disposable income (such as business book buyers) are more willing to pay a premium for this fast shipping ‒ which means business books with Prime shipping are more likely to sell at a higher price than most other types of books.
Fantasy books are one of my most consistent income-generating categories.
There are a few reasons for this.
First, most of the valuable fantasy books are pocket paperbacks. Many sellers incorrectly write off all pocket paperbacks as worthless, and so avoid them like the plague.
This means the fantasy section often remains untouched at book sales, and you can mosey on over near the end of the sale and pick it clean.
Second, many sellers don’t know how to properly scan pocket paperbacks. Scanning the barcode on the back cover usually doesn’t work. It typically brings up some unrelated product, or no result at all.
To bring up a pocket paperback on your scanning app, you have to open the front cover and scan the barcode on the inside of the front cover. This is a bit inconvenient, but it’s worth it when you’re scanning fantasy pocket paperbacks.
Third, first edition fantasy books are more sought after than first editions in other genres. If you encounter a first edition, it might be worth substantially more than the initial scan indicates.
I’ve scanned thousands of fantasy books, and I’ve found there are a few series that are consistently worth a lot of money ($30 – $150 is the price range I’ve encountered)
- Magic: The Gathering
- Forgotten Realms
New books aren’t technically a genre, but their vast increase in value when compared to their used counterparts makes them worth a mention.
I’m more cautious than most when grading a book New. I will only list a book as New if it’s still sealed and unopened in the original plastic wrap.
Some sellers list used books in pristine condition as New, but I don’t think doing so is worth the risk of negative feedback.
If you ever see a book still in its original plastic wrap, drop what you’re doing and give it a scan.
Audiobooks are another category that other sellers seem to ignore.
I’m not sure why this is ‒ I almost always come out of book sales with at least $100 worth of audiobooks.
If you do buy audiobooks, check to make sure all of the discs are included before buying them.
I should also note that audiobooks are harder to sell with FBA at a higher price than merchant-fulfilled offers. People purchasing physical copies of audiobooks seem to prioritize a lower price over fast shipping speed. You should take that into account when setting your prices.
Some of my most profitable finds have been biographies. In particular, older biographies without barcodes or ISBN numbers tend to be particularly lucrative. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- Older books are generally rarer because they’re out of print and many have been lost or destroyed in the years since they were last in print.
- Unlike many other non-fiction genres where older books tend to contain outdated knowledge, biographies will remain relevant and accurate for the rest of time. This means the average old biography will be worth more money than the average old book about science.
There are few greater joys in life than finding a stack of manga books
I don’t say this because I’m particularly fond of Japanese culture ‒ I say this because manga books typically come in large sets.
If you find one manga book, there’s a good chance you’re going to find the rest of the books in the series. This is because a manga series is basically one big story. If you don’t buy all of the books in the series, you don’t get the full story. As such, manga fans typically buy ‒ and donate ‒ all of the books at once.
The joy I feel comes into play when a manga series is particularly valuable. If there are 15 books in a series, and each is worth $30, you can snap up $450 worth of books in under a minute.
So if a sale or store has a manga section, it should be one of the first places you hit.
Book sets typically cost more than a single book, but they’re still worth a scan-through.
This is because buyers will often pay more to buy all of the books in a set at once (as opposed to buying them individually). And this is especially true when the book set comes in a slipcase.
Books without competing FBA offers
While books without other FBA offers aren’t technically a genre, but you should be taking advantage of them nevertheless.
There is a subset of Amazon buyers willing to pay a high premium Prime shipping. If you don’t have any competing FBA offers on a listing, you can set your FBA price significantly higher than the merchant-fulfilled offers and still get a sale.
So, how high should you set your prices when you’re the only FBA offer on a listing?
I recommend either 2x or 3x higher than merchant-fulfilled, depending on how high the merchant-fulfilled offers are. This is a topic I cover in-depth in my book pricing strategy guide, so read that if you want a more nuanced answer.
How can I tell which books are profitable using a scanning app?
There are two data points you should care about when scanning a book: the lowest FBA price and the sales rank. This topic can get rather complex, but in general you should look for books with low sales ranks and high prices.
Which book scanning app should I use?
I recommend using FBAScan/Scoutly as your book scanning app, as it’s cheaper and better than the alternatives. Read my article comparing the two major book scanning apps if you’d like more information.
Where can I find cheap books to sell on Amazon?
There are a ton of great sources out there where you buy cheap books: