does zen arbitrage work

Does Zen Arbitrage Actually Work?

Zen Arbitrage makes a lot of promises about making money with online book arbitrage… but does it actually work? Here’s my personal experience with it.

Updated: June 4, 2019 by Flip Those Books!
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Online book arbitrage seems too good to be true, right? I mean, come on… Can you really earn decent money flipping books on Amazon? Does Zen Arbitrage actually work?

The short answer is yes. Zen Arbitrage does actually work.

I’ve used it to successfully source books online for much of the 2+ years I’ve been selling books on Amazon. There’s no trickery or B.S. involved ‒ You can absolutely make a significant amount of money sourcing books online with Zen Arbitrage.

The caveat is that you need to know what you’re doing. It’s not as simple as the Zen Arbitrage marketing makes it out to be ‒ there are a number of books out there that seem like good buys, but end up dropping in price or taking way too long to sell.

I’m going to be honest in this article, and share both the pros and the cons of sourcing books online using Zen Arbitrage. 

The Pros of Online Book Arbitrage With Zen Arbitrage

You can make money doing this

Online book arbitrage genuinely works. The price gap between FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant) offers and FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) offers can be astronomical, and savvy sellers like us can take advantage of these discrepancies.

As proof that it works, here are some examples of successful flips I’ve made using Zen Arbitrage. Click the underlined links to see the proof that I actually bought and sold these items at the prices shown. 

Book Name Purchase Price Sale Price Days from Purchase to Sale Net Profit
Contract Law Fundamentals (6 copies) $7.21 $79.99 16 days to 29 days $314.46
Urban Economics (1 copy) $25.56 $123.39 24 days $70.45
Understanding Post-Tonal Music (1 copy) $31.89 $144.31 52 days $66.03
Finite Mathematics (1 copy) $43.99 $138.41 19 days $63.79
Student Activities Manual (1 copy) $19.94 $94.99 18 days $51.71

All of these profitable flips, and the many others I’ve done, required only a couple of minutes of effort from me. I found the books in Zen Arbitrage, bought them, and had Amazon ship them to my FBA book prep center. That’s it.

No lugging books in and out of my house. No grading and listing. No driving to the UPS store. Everything was out of sight and out of mind.

There are way more flip opportunities than there are people doing this

I have zero trouble finding profitable flips when I search through Amazon’s book catalog with Zen Arbitrage. The truth of the matter is that there are far less people sourcing books online than there are profitable books to be sourced.

If you’re persistent and you know what you’re looking for, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll run out of money to spend on books before your first day of sourcing is over.

There’s zero physical effort involved

If you’re growing tired of lugging books around and throwing your back out in the process, Zen Arbitrage will be a welcome change of pace.

You don’t need to run around a library, scanning hundreds of books an hour. You can sit on the couch and scroll on your computer at whatever pace you like.

It’s completely location independent

The proliferation of FBA book prep services makes online book arbitrage a completely location independent business. You don’t need to physically handle the books, as you can pay other people to do that for you. All you need is an internet connection, a computer, an Amazon Seller Account, and access to Zen Arbitrage.

The Cons of Online Book Arbitrage With Zen Arbitrage

It’s hard work

This is not a free lunch. It’s hard work ‒ arguably harder than local sourcing.

I’m sure many will disagree with me when I say that. And they have a point ‒ sitting at a computer is physically much easier than going to a book sale and scanning books, it’s true.

Where online book arbitrage is harder is in the sheer amount of time you need to be staring intensely at a computer screen. It’s in the hours and hours of checking thousands of Amazon product pages. It’s in the monotony of scrolling through endless  Zen Arbitrage search results pages, looking for a price discrepancy large enough to be worth your time.

This kind of work is not for everyone. If you can’t stand being on a computer for hours on end, you’re probably going to hate using Zen Arbitrage. But if you prefer sitting at home on your computer to lugging books around at book sales and thrift stores, you should give Zen Arbitrage a try.

It’s seasonal

I tried to make money sourcing books online year-round. I legitimately stopped sourcing locally and attempted to go full-time sourcing books online… and I just wasn’t able to swing it. I had to resume sourcing locally at book sales and thrift stores to make sure the bills got paid.

I wasn’t able to swing it for two reasons.

I’ll talk about the first reason here: I was heavily reliant on textbook season price spikes to make significant money.

Once textbook season died down, I found it quite difficult to sell the books I purchased. Many of the most profitable books have pretty low demand outside of textbook season, and I often found myself competing fiercely with other sellers to nab that elusive next sale. This would inevitably drive the prices of the books down, and I would end up selling for less than I wanted to.

While I was still able to find plenty of profitable books outside of textbook season, I typically had to wait longer to sell those books… Which brings us to the second reason I wasn’t able to go full-time with online book arbitrage.

You need money to make money

This is the second reason I wasn’t able to swing a full-time income with online book arbitrage: I didn’t have enough startup money to generate a return substantial enough to live off of.

One of the biggest differences between online sourcing and local sourcing is that books online cost way more than $1 – $2. My buy costs can range anywhere from $5 to $80. That adds up extremely quickly, especially when you’re spending multiple hours a day sourcing. If you don’t have a stockpile of liquid cash (or a decent line of credit) to make these purchases.

If you’re operating in the textbook off-season, it can take anywhere from two weeks to several months for you to see a return on any books you purchase. This is fine if you have the funds to bankroll a bunch of book purchases, but it’s a long time to wait if you need those books to sell in order to fund additional inventory purchases.

So while buying a book for $70 and selling it for $150 sounds terrific, those kinds of expensive purchases can leave you twiddling your thumbs if you don’t have much liquid cash to spend on books.

I believe making a full-time living doing online book arbitrage is definitely possible. It just requires a substantial amount of startup capital, and a willingness to put in long hours on the computer sourcing books.

But you don’t have to do this full-time.

I think online book arbitrage works much better as a side hustle into which you invest a bit of money and time. This was you don’t get burned out looking at Amazon product pages all day, and you don’t tie up too much money in inventory that may take awhile to sell.


Zen Arbitrage works. Sourcing books online is a legitimate and profitable venture, and many Amazon sellers will find it to be a welcome addition to their sourcing arsenal.

That’s not to say it’s easy or foolproof. To be successful at this, you’ll need to spend many hours in front of your computer. And as with any kind of product you can sell, not everything you buy will be amazingly profitable.

That being said, I believe all Amazon sellers should give it a try. Online book arbitrage is a nice change of pace from local sourcing, and it’s an excellent supplement to your normal income that you can do from anywhere in the world. 

If you’d like to try Zen Arbitrage, you can do so risk-free, as they offer a 14-day free trial.

Try Zen Arbitrage for free today. (14-day free trial)

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