Do you have a bunch of old books that you’re trying to get rid of? Perhaps you’re decluttering your house, or maybe you’re moving and need to downsize your collection; whatever the reason, donating your second hand books is a great way to spread the literary love around.
In this article, I’ll show you how and where to donate your used books. I’ll cover several places that accept donated books in person and some online book donation sites too. And if you’re short on cash, I’ll also include a few ways to sell your books, as well as some ideas on how to recycle old books that are too beat up to sell or donate.
Donating Your Used Books
- Thrift Stores
Your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other thrift stores will usually accept book donations.
Having said that, it’s always best to call ahead and check with the store to see if they’re willing to accept your donation; different stores have different criteria, and smaller stores don’t always have the space for large book collections. But chances are, there’s a thrift store in your local area that would be grateful to inherit your old home library.
And since you’re already driving to the thrift store, why not have a clear out of your old clothes, furniture, or other household items that are suitable for donating. It’s a great opportunity to declutter and raise money for those in need.
- Your Local Library
Many libraries accept used books in good condition, and some even use the donated stock for community book sales to raise money for local causes.
Each library is different, though, and not all of them will need donated books. Like most places on this list, it’s always better to call ahead and check that they can take your donation before you arrive.
If you have a collection of children’s books to donate, you can try calling up elementary schools in your area. They might appreciate having some new titles in the school library or extra resources for the classroom.
If you have titles suitable for older kids, then it’s worth calling around your local middle schools and high schools too. Even if they don’t need the books themselves, schools often host book sales to raise money, so your donation may still be useful.
Freecycle is a fantastic resource for donating pretty much any used items, and books are no exception. Simply create a free account and post a short description of the books you wish to donate. With any luck, a local family or community organization will find a good use for them.
Just like Freecycle, Craigslist has a ‘free stuff’ section where you can offer up your used books for anyone to collect.
Prisons are often overlooked when it comes to book donations, and as a result, there’s a huge shortage of books in many prisons across the country.
Having a regular influx of new reading material helps prisoners feel more connected to the outside world. It also encourages education at all ages and can even lead to lower levels of re-offending.
There are several organizations that facilitate book donations to prisons, including Books Through Bars. Based in Philadelphia, PA, this volunteer-run organization supplies free books and other educational materials to inmates across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The Prison Book Program is a similar organization that helps prisoners get access to a huge variety of books that would otherwise be unavailable. They are always on the lookout for donations and accept a wide variety of books which you can send through the mail or drop off at a designated pick up spot. You can even purchase brand new books for the program through their Amazon and local bookstore schemes.
- Retirement Homes
Retirement communities often accept book donations so that their residents have access to a great rotation of reading material. They will usually consider most used books, but large print editions are especially useful for residents who have issues with their eyesight.
- Books For Africa
Books for Africa distributes books for children of all ages across Africa. They aim to end the continent’s book famine and create a culture of literacy, empowering children and their parents and educators to create a brighter future for all. So far, they’ve collected, sorted, and shipped over 50 million books over the last 30 years.
- Kids Need to Read
Kids Need to Read works in a similar way to Books for Africa; they provide children’s books to some of America’s poorest communities and supply underfunded schools, libraries, and literary programs with high quality reading material. They aim to provide disadvantaged children with the opportunity to be inspired by reading, just like their more privileged counterparts.
- Make a “Free Books” Box
Setting up a ‘free books’ box at the end of your driveway is a creative way of offering your used books to others in your neighborhood. You might be surprised by the number of people who stop to look through your selection, and it can be a great way to meet your neighbors.
It’s also a fun project for kids to get involved in too; they can make a colorful sign to attract passers-by and count the number of books that have been taken at the end of the day.
You could give away your books for free, or even better, set up an optional donation box. People can leave their small change, and when the pot is full, you can donate the proceeds to your favorite charity.
- Donate to Friends and Family
It’s always worth asking around your friends, family, and coworkers to see if they could make use of your old books. And once they’re done reading them, they can donate them to one of the organizations above.
How to Donate Books Responsibly: The Three C’s
- Call Ahead
It’s always best to call ahead before you show up at an organization armed with stacks of books. While you intend to help, sometimes, books can be more of a burden, especially if they are short on space.
It’s a good idea to go through your books and organize them into categories before you donate them. Some charities and organizations are looking for particular types of books only.
It’s also important to be honest about the condition of your books before you drop them at a donation center or send them off in the mail. Some organizations only accept lightly used or even like-new books.
Don’t worry if you have some old books in a state of disrepair; you can still recycle them, as I’ll explain later in this article.
Where to Sell Your Used Books
While donating books is always a great idea, if you’re short on cash, you might want to consider selling off some of your old book collections. While you might only receive a few cents for your old paperbacks, other more specialist books in good condition can go for more than you might expect.
Here are few places you can sell your books.
- Local Independent Bookstores
Some local bookstores will consider buying your used books if they are in good condition, especially if you have some rarer titles or genres in high demand. Sometimes, you’ll receive store credit for your books, so you can effectively swap them out for books you haven’t read yet. Other books stores might even pay you in cold hard cash.
Selling to an independent retailer, rather than a large corporation, is always good too; small book stores need our help now, more than ever.
BookScouter.com advertises itself mainly as a textbook buyback site, but it’s great for a wide variety of different books, including a lot of fiction.
Simply type in the ISBN and click enter; you’ll receive a large list of websites that will buy your book, and they’ll even give you an estimated price that each one is willing to pay.
It’s a good place to start if you’re trying to figure out how much money each book is worth, so you can decide whether to sell them or donate them.
You can also make a surprising amount of money selling books on Amazon. Check out my handy step-by-step guide to help get you started.
How to Recycle Your Used Books
If your book collection is particularly tattered and old, you might struggle to sell or donate them. Even some charitable organizations have strict guidelines on the condition of books they will accept as donations. After all, they need to sell them on to raise money for their cause, and there’s no sense in accepting battered and worn books that nobody wants.
But fear not; if you have some beat-up old books that you need to get rid of, you can still recycle or reuse them.
Why not get crafty and use the pages of old books to make gift tags, envelopes, or greeting cards? Or you can even create a secret storage box by hollowing out an old hardback book.
But don’t worry if crafting isn’t really your thing; you can recycle most books in the paper section of your local recycling center or on your curbside recycling pickup.
No book has to go to waste; there are so many ways to donate books, and it’s also possible to sell and recycle them too. What do you do with your secondhand books? Let me know in the comments below!
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