May 9, 2010
This is an update about my old media downsizing project.
Three months ago Steve Jobs promised me something “magical” when he announced the iPad. As I mentioned at the time, I was initially put off by its price and that it seemed little more than an enlarged iPod touch. But in the end, given my long-term desire for better couch surfing and my delight with both the iPhone and the Kindle, I decided to go whole hog and buy the top-of-the line unit with 64 GB of memory and both WiFi and 3G connections.
I was a bit nervous about spending $900 on the unit and its accessories when I had not even laid hands on a sample. But then I realized it was past time for me to dispose of many extra books, DVDs, and my entire CD collection. My house was filled with old media and in the modern wireless world I was reading books on the Kindle instead of on paper, listening to music on the iPhone and Apple TV instead of on CDs, and watching streaming video and renting discs from Netflix instead of my viewing my own DVDs. I’d already waited too long to dispose of my vinyl records and VHS tapes, which were now worth only pennies. I should sell off my old media while they were still worth something.
I first culled dozens of books from my collection, selling many of them online to Powell’s Books, a wonderful bookseller I’ve enjoyed visiting in Oregon. I would flip each book over and type in the ISBN number from the back cover and see if Powell’s would take it and how much it was worth to them. Then I’d box up a bunch of the books, print out a free shipping label, and send them off the next day at the post office. Later I ran the remaining books by several other online booksellers and managed to get bites on a few of them from abebooks, cash4books.net, and webuytextbooks.com. Some of them make you ship them off via USPS Media Mail on your own dime, promising to pay you a set shipping rate after your books are accepted. In the end I sold off 110 books for $260. Four audiobooks had no buyers, so I listed them on Amazon, pricing them to be competitive with the others on offer. Within a couple of weeks I’d sold and shipped off each of them to different buyers, netting another $45. I was already over 1/3 of the way to my goal.
Next went the DVDs. I was careful not to sell off ones I could not find available for rent on Netflix, and hung onto some of my favorites. But I did sell 33 of them to SecondSpin.com for $78. SecondSpin also makes you pay the Media Mail rate yourself and then promises to compensate you upon acceptance. Once my DVDs arrived, they processed my order quickly and told me the check was in the mail. Now I’d paid for 43% of the iPad, and it was time to tackle the big project: the collection of over 400 compact discs I’d built up over a quarter century.
Looking for buyers online revealed that many of the services, including SecondSpin, were really different faces of the same corporation, All Media Guide, which provides the useful allmusic website. Bit by bit (pun intended) I typed in the UPC codes of my discs into SecondSpin, breaking the collection into separate orders of two dozen discs each to ensure I could get adequate shipping reimbursements for them. I would need a bunch of boxes of the right size, so I found some cheap 14x6x6 ones from Mobe on iOffer.com. In the end I would ship off 15 of those boxes, selling over 350 CDs to SecondSpin and another 14 to The CD Exchange for $631.
Adding up my sales and subtracting the cost of the boxes, packing materials, and excess postage not covered by the online buyers, I had netted $942. That iPad was now fully paid for, and having the shelves cleared of unused media was in fact its own reward.