Torben's Books - launched and profitable

Vote 0 Votes

Ever the entrepreneur, I launched a new "business" on Tuesday. Mainly, I have too many books for my bookshelf, so I decided to sell all of the books I no longer want. On Tuesday, I signed up with to become a book seller, and then went through a few shelves, pulling off all the books where I would rather have money than the book... an amazingly high percentage of my books.

Listing the books with Amazon was pretty easy. You just type in the ISBN number, record a few comments on the condition of the book, and then pick a sale price. But, here's where I was really disappointed. Amazon charges a per book fee plus a percentage of the sale, so selling books for a penny as the real book merchants do, would dictate that you're selling your book for a loss after taking into account the cost of packaging and postage (much less my time.) Fortunately, unlike eBay, you don't have to pay the fee unless the book sells.

So, even though I listed all the books I want to get rid of, none are priced less than $3.99 (plus the standard $3.99 shipping fee), which means a lot of them will never sell. Still, I had a copy of 'The Nine' by Jeffrey Toobin (a good book about the Rehnquist Supreme Court that I read while in Cabo), and the prices on Amazon were around $7.50. I listed mine for $7.40, and went to sleep.

The next morning, I got an email from Amazon telling me my book had sold. I momentarily panicked, not sure I was ready to deal with this so soon... but it's not all that difficult. I checked out their shipping tips page and immediately started worrying whether I would need to buy a postage scale, labels, all that stuff... but I'm keeping things low volume for now as I don't expect to sell many books.

To take care of packaging, I stopped at a Kinko's on the way home from work and bought a mailing envelope, then, I went to the post-office and sent the book via media mail. Here's the accounting.

$7.40 - Sale price
$3.99 - Shipping & Handling charge
$11.39 - Total Revenues

$3.45 - Amazon fee
$0.99 - packaging expense
$2.58 - postage expense
$7.02 - Total Expenses

$4.37 - Gross Profit

What you will notice is missing is any discussion of the cost of acquiring the book. Yes, I did pay more than $4.37 for the book, but I can't get that money back now, so it's a sunk cost. What I'm happy about is that I now have one fewer book on my shelf, and $4.37 more in my pocket. Ain't America great?