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What can I do with my Old Books?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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There are a variety of things to do with old books that you no longer want, depending on their condition and content. You might choose to donate old books, sell them to a bookstore for cash or trade, pass them on to friends, or simply throw them out if they are in poor shape. There is no reason to allow old books to accumulate when others might be able to find a good use for them.

When you are deciding what to do with old books, asses their condition first. If the book is a hardcover and the dust jacket is still in good shape, it might be salable. If it is a ratty old paperback with torn cover and pages, it sounds like a good candidate for donation or recycling. Check to make sure that the book has all of its pages, the cover is not coming off, and the pages or covers are not stained. If the old books are in good condition, selling them to a used bookstore might net a small amount of cash. They could also be donated to charity, if you felt so inclined, along with books in less perfect condition.

When selling old books to a bookstore, be aware that book buyers are often looking for something in particular. It is important to be aware of the content of old books if you are bringing them to a bookstore, because some topics are of more general interest than others. Fiction is usually a safe bet, for example: travel guides are not. Book buyers know what sells in the store and what does not, and they may decline some of the old books as a result. Most used bookstores also offer a higher rate of trade than cash, and you may want to consider accepting trade and swapping your unwanted old books for a fresh set.

If donating old books to charity, avoid donating books that are in truly poor condition. If you think the book should be recycled, toss it, rather than forcing the charity to reach the same decision and clogging up their recycling bins. If a book is stained, warped due to water damage, or missing a cover, a charity cannot sell it or give it out. Most charities also prefer that you enter the charity with your donation, rather than leaving it on the step to be rifled through and potentially damaged. Charities can also provide you with a receipt for tax write off purposes, if you need one.

You may also want to consider exchanging books with friends. You could simply have a shelf of old books that you don't want by the door, and encourage your friends to take books that looked interesting. If your entire social network followed this practice, a constantly circulating library of old books could be formed. You could also have a book swap party, where everyone brings a box of old books to a central location for the others to look through. After the book swap, box up the remainder of the books and donate them to charity.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By sherlock87 — On Jan 24, 2011

@Catapult, I like to donate old books as well, when I have several at a time. Places like Goodwill, as well as school libraries and churches, all like to get new books whenever possible, and it is nice to think that my old used books could educate others who might not get the chance to read them otherwise.

By Catapult — On Jan 21, 2011

I also like stores, such as coffee shops, that have leave a book, take a book, programs. In these places, you can always drop off one or two books you no longer want, and then find old books to take home with you instead. That way books continue to be shared and read, a little bit at a time.

By anon93678 — On Jul 05, 2010

Thanks for the suggestions.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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