Something to Watch out for when Selling Used Textbooks on Amazon

Something to Watch out for when Selling Used Textbooks on Amazon

In today’s post I am going to share a problem that I have been coming across more and more often when selling textbooks.  Textbooks are a product category that I have been selling on Amazon since 2008, and I have been noticing this issue at an increased pace over the past year.  The issue is instructor’s review copies, and annotated instructor’s editions being sold as the student edition.  It’s not quite that simple though.  There are sellers who are actively working to deceive buyers by trying to conceal these other versions of the books as student editions.

In this post I’m going to show you 2 examples with pictures exactly what I am talking about.

Before we get to that, I am going to share with you quickly why this issue matters.  First off, it’s questionable whether these review copies that are stamped “not for resale” are ok to resell.  From an ethical standpoint, it’s at best in a gray area.  The books clearly were not intended to be resold.  From a legal standpoint, it’s hard to say, as there’s not much precedent.

Both of those factors matter, but what is extremely important is the health of your Amazon seller account.  These books are being intentionally misrepresented to the buyer, and if the buyer realizes that it can only cause problems for your account.

Now, let’s take a look at the 2 examples before discussing further.  These were both books that I purchased online to resell on Amazon.  Both of these books happened to come from sellers on, both of whom had over 95% positive feedback.

First, here’s the front cover of the first book, notice the tape towards the top of the book:

1 TM - FC - Tape Intact

Now, here’s the back cover of this same book, notice the placement of the barcode and the “paper looking” back cover:

2 TM - BC - Tape Intact

Now, let’s take a look at the front cover with the strip of tape at the top removed:

3 TM - FC - Tape Removed

Looks a bit different doesn’t it? and now the back cover:

4 TM - BC - Tape Removed

This tape was a massive pain to get off of the book.  I was able to use a heat gun to get some of the tape to peel off.  You can clearly see that it says “not for sale” and has a different cover than the student edition would.

Let’s take a look at one more example.  Here’s the front cover, notice the black tape where the arrows are pointing:

5 CA - FC - Tape Intact

Now here’s the back cover, notice that you can faintly see tape near the arrows:

6 CA - BC - Tape Intact

Now the front cover with the tape removed (I wonder why they wanted to cover that up?):

7 CA - FC - Tape Removed

Finally, the back cover with the tape removed:

8 CA - BC - Tape RemovedNot for sale, huh?


If you want to see a video removing these stickers and a little further discussion, check out a video of the process on my youtube channel below:

These are 2 of the more deceptive ones that I have seen.  In both cases they literally taped a new barcode over the back cover of the book.  Both of these were sold as the regular student edition, and clearly they are not an exact match to the student edition.

The easiest way to spot this issue is to notice the strip of tape at the top of the front cover of the book.  Just about every time that is there, something is beneath that tape that the seller doesn’t want you to see.  Whether you are sourcing your used books through thrift stores, online, or via other measures, I’d highly recommend keeping an eye out for this.  These tactics are used to intentionally deceive buyers.  I don’t think you want to be the one who gets caught selling these on Amazon as the student edition.  Customers returning items as “not as described” can be very harmful to your metrics.

Whenever I come across these books locally I just leave them behind. If I buy a book online to resell, I will contact the seller for a return/refund every time.  Hopefully you are able to use this post to implement a similar process in your book sourcing.

That’s all I have for today.  If you source and sell textbooks, make sure to keep an eye out for this.  If you have any comments or questions please let me know below.  If you found this post helpful, please consider sharing using one of the buttons below.

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