Even though Amazon has long surpassed its humble bookstore roots by innovating cardless grocery stores, drone shipping, and one-hour lunch deliveries, we’re still partial to spending our evenings scrolling through Amazon’s enormous virtual library for a hot new read. While browsing, you’ve probably noticed that there are people claiming to sell good quality books for just a penny and wondered how in the heck they’re making any money, or if it’s just an elaborate scam that hasn’t reached your news feed yet. Well, it turns out penny books are actually a BIG business on Amazon. Here’s the sneaky way they make their moolah.

Woman reading books on living room floor

According to Danika Ellis at BookRiot, penny booksellers use Amazon’s built-in shipping costs to turn a profit on their low-cost items. Amazon charges a flat rate of $3.99 for shipping books within the US and takes a $1.35 cut on every book sold. That leaves the seller with $2.64 to ship the book to the buyer. But because these booksellers are shipping so many products at once, they’re able to get a cheaper rate using Bulk Mail. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that these sellers are able to save a lot of capital up-front by scooping up free second-hand books from thrift-store donation bins. And if you’re selling large volumes of books, those cents and dollars can add up quickly.

But these penny booksellers don’t *always* price their books at a measly cent. Using a complicated repricing algorithm to determine the cheapest listing on Amazon, the same company might price one book at $0.01 and another at a whopping $70 if there aren’t many listings for it on the site.

With multiple companies competing in this space, there’s always a way to get a cheap second-hand book. Sure, perusing a local bookstore will always be our go-to for finding a great new read, but we’re totally down for a saving a few bucks on our late-night Amazon hauls too.

Have you ever bought a book for a penny on Amazon? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)