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Online Books

Memphis Public Library

Innovation Summary

Some donated books were worth more than the value we sell at our bookstore and our book sales we manage. We needed another outlet for these books.

Problem Statement

So many donated books were valued higher than the few dollars we sell them in our bookstore and our book sales. We needed to do something with these valuable books we had been getting over the years. We had either discarded them, put them in the bookstore for under $5 or put them in the book sales for under $2. It was such a waste.


We finally decided to set up an online book department and start selling books through Amazon for their actual value. We have volunteers list the books online, we have other volunteers pull the books from our shelves, wrap and mail them. One of the first books sold for $857 and we have sold many in the $100 to $400 range. The library helped us set up a separate room with four computers, printers, tables for wrapping and shelves for the volumes that are listed. We buy some supplies but for any book that has to be boxed, we recycle boxes from the acquisitions department. The overhead is very low as we only have to buy envelopes, plastic bags, tape and cartridges for the computers. All our workers are volunteers and all of our books are donated.


In the three years since we began this operation, we have listed 17,804 books and sold 9,278. We made $88,000 in 2010 and are on track to make close to or over $100,000 in 2012. All of this money goes directly to Memphis Public Library. It is so fun to find an "acceptable" paperback in a box of donated books, scan it, and find it is worth $93. It is even more fun to watch it sell three days later. Yes, we finally broke down and bought a scanner and now scan each book that comes to us. It takes a little more time, but we don't miss any high value books that way. Our only loss, and it isn't really a loss, is we don't have book dealers show up at our book sales any more. We have already pulled the books they want and have them online.