Ecopreneurial Opportunity: Used Book Exchange


Know someone with an eco-entrepreneurial spirit?  As part of a series, Scott Cooney, author of Build a Green Small Business:  Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and Principal of, will present a new eco-entrepreneurial opportunity every Friday for Startup Friday on TriplePundit.

Are you a bookworm?  Ever thought you’d love to sift through books all day and sip organic coffee while interacting with other like-minded literati?  The thought of running an independent book store is a daunting one–few other types of locally owned businesses have been quite so impacted by big box competition.  A used book exchange is an alternative model that combines all those things you love about the bookstore concept, with a low startup capital and operating expense model that just might help you succeed…if you know a few tricks of the trade.

So what is a used book exchange? A used book exchange is typically a purveyor of “gently-used” books. The “exchange” part comes from the customer loyalty program usually practiced by these businesses, where a customer can bring their used books in and ‘exchange’ them for others, usually on a credit system. For instance, the bookstore may choose to allow people to give two books and receive one in return. Or the customer may receive credits towards the purchase of books when they drop off their used books.

By creating a second life for used books, used book exchanges keep books out of the landfill or the recycle bin. It also provides a better price for customers than a new bookstore, though the selection and quality may be slightly less.

Because of the low cost of inventory, the startup costs are very low for this kind of business. However, the income potential is also limited. These businesses are best located in urban areas with lots of walk-by foot traffic.

There are some types of books that work really well for used sales:  textbooks (if you’re near a campus), books of local interest, hard to find books, books on specific topics, etc.  In addition, there are some that work very very poorly (romance novels).

About the author: Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill).

Interested in more green startup ideas? See his “Start a Green Business” column at

Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.