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Condition Guidelines

Condition problems are the number one reason we pass on books, whether we're buying in person or online. If you're unfamiliar with used books or with Powell's condition requirements, please take a moment to read through the information below.

  1. No rips, tears, stains, or odors
    • Rips and tears:

      Our general guideline is that any title with a cover tear of more than a quarter of an inch or any title with multiple rips or tears to the edges will be passed on condition.

      Some books may not have obvious rips or tears but are still generally beaten up or in worn condition or may be covered in unsightly stickers or price markings from other stores.

      Books with tape repairs to any portion of the interior or exterior will also be passed on.

      For dust jackets, the same rule of thumb should apply albeit with a slightly less demanding eye, and it's possible that we will keep a book at a lower bid even if the dust jacket is in poor condition.

      All of the above are reasons for books to be passed on.

    • Stains:

      Stains and/or water damage in the form of wavy pages or brittle pages that have since dried from a nasty fall into the tub are also reasons to reject a title regardless of how much or how little it affects the books. If any part of it has had liquid touch it, there's no need for anyone else to touch it either.

    • Odors:

      Books are made from organic materials that can and will pick up the scent of things around them. Poor storage such as in basements or garages can result in a musty, if not downright moldy, smell that won't leave no matter how long you let it air out. Smoke or fragranced storage materials will also be absorbed by the paper and can't be removed. Regardless of whether these books are in perfect condition otherwise, they can't be saved and will be passed on.


  2. No writing or highlighting (with the exception of an owner's name written in front)

    Writing and/or highlighting of any kind won't be accepted. This applies to any part of the book including its covers and dust jacket. Please check your books thoroughly before sending them.

  3. No pages falling out or coming loose and no broken spines/bindings

    Please thumb through any book you are trying to sell at least twice before sending it to us. Beyond the obvious pages that may come loose in this process, you are looking to see if the book naturally falls open or stops at a certain section which is often the indication of a broken spine.

    Broken spines can also be spotted by noting white crease lines down the spine of a paperback title.

    Additionally, paperback books with a pronounced angle to their spine may also be passed on.

    You won't be able to see a broken spine as easily from the exterior of a hardcover, but you'll find the same internal symptoms as those described for the trade paperback above.

  4. Mass Markets

    Please be aware that there is a high rejection rate on mass market titles.

    Due to the cheaper construction of mass market bindings, they will tend to have more condition issues than other titles. Always flip through the book first to check for loose pages. Also, be sure the book doesn't exhibit the following:


    the book opens flat

    there is visible cracking internally

    there are white crease lines on the spine

    Any mass market title that has a pronounced crease in the spine should not be sent as this is most often a sign that the binding is broken or near enough to breaking that we may not be able to resell it again. Any mass market with a visibly broken or cracked spine will be passed on.

  5. No Ex-Library or Book Club Editions
    • Book Club Editions:

      This one can be tricky. It's quite easy to identify a book club edition if you're looking at it side by side to the regular edition. But without the comparison or the experience to recognize one by feel, we have a few points to look out for listed below.

      Also, if you belong to a book club from which you receive regular shipments of new titles in the mail, like from the Book of the Month Club or a similar organization, then this is a very good indication that the books you receive are book club editions.

      Please note that any or all of the below points can apply and that trade edition ISBNs are often mistakenly on the book club edition.

    • Hardcover Book Clubs (BCEs):
      BCEs are smaller in size than the regular hardcover.

      BCEs don't have a price on them whereas most regular editions will have the price on the inside upper front or inside lower rear of the dust jacket.

      Most modern BCEs will have a five digit code on the rear cover and may or may not include the original edition's barcode and ISBN.

      Some older BCEs can also be identified by looking under the dust jacket on the back of the book. A blind stamp, a very small indentation, or an inked mark (circle, square, etc.) on the bottom right near the spine is an indication that it's a book club edition.

      Additionally, a number/letter line near or in the gutter of the rear pages of a book will also indicate that it is a BCE.

      Some older BCEs will sometimes have "Book Club Edition" in italics on the inside front cover. Please note that a book referred to as a "Book of the Month Club" selection does not necessarily mean the book you have is a book club edition — but it does mean that BCE copies of that book were published.

      In addition, BCEs tend to "feel" lighter and cheaper, particularly in hardcover. They are more cheaply produced and the difference is usually noticeable.

      Finally, look at the title or copyright page. Sometimes a book club will identify itself as the publisher.

    • Paperback Book Club Editions (BCEs)
      Paperback BCEs tend to be slightly bigger than regular paperbacks.

      Paperback BCEs don't have a price on them whereas regular edition paperbacks have a price listed, usually on the back cover either by the bar code or near it.

      Some older paperback BCEs will have only an author photo or publisher blurbs on the rear cover without an ISBN or barcode.

      Again, look at the title or copyright page. Sometimes a book club will identify itself as the publisher (QPB of Quality Paperback Book Club is a common one).

    • Ex-Library:

      Ex-library books are pretty self explanatory as they most often have the common markings of any book formerly housed in a library including but not limited to:


      call numbers along the spine

      barcode tags on the cover or interior

      library name stamps

      check-out cards or the dried glue remnants of them

      a withdrawn stamp

      Removing the markings of an ex-library book does not make it eligible for buyback. All ex-library books, regardless of their condition, will be rejected. Books with personal library markings/stickers on the spine or books with "property of" markings from non-library institutions will not be purchased either. This includes but is not limited to: schools, community reading projects, and book-sharing clubs.

  6. No ARCs, UPs, or books marked "Not for Resale"

    Advance Reader's Copies (ARCs) and Uncorrected Proofs (UPs) are usually marked as such on the front cover and will have marketing and publicity information on the rear cover. They are pre-publication editions produced only for booksellers and reviewers and are not meant for resale. All of these types of books will be passed on.

    • Advance Reader's Copies (ARCs)
    • Uncorrected Proofs (UPs)

    • Books stamped or printed "Not for Resale"
  7. All hardcovers originally sold with a dust jacket must include the dust jacket

    Some titles are not issued with dust jackets, but these are few and far between and usually apply only to computer, technical (as in any higher math, science, engineering, or mechanics), and/or textbook titles. If an ISBN and barcode is printed on the rear cover of a book, this is often (although not always) an indication that a book was published without a dust jacket.

  8. Accompanying media.

    CDs, DVDs, or any other additional inserts, maps, or the like must be included with any items sold. Please be sure to check that anything that originally came with a book is included with the book when it is shipped.

  9. Labels and Stickers

    Please be sure to remove all price and discount stickers from books.  We pass on books with excessive stickers — whether price, sale, discount, or store labels.

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