It’s difficult for book lovers to part with used books. Books are personal to us. They’re our friends. They comfort us, keep us warm, and give us a place to escape. They keep us up at night, distract us from our chores, and provide endless fodder for conversation. Books are quite possibly the best friends we’ll ever have.
There comes a time when we run out of bookshelf space or areas for stacking and our books take over our homes. When that happens, as much as it hurts, we have to do a book audit and clear out those books that we can bear to part with. It’s painful, but it’s necessary.
Fortunately, we’re here to help you get through it.
Today we’re going to take a look at some of the things you can do with your old books. Whether you choose to make money from your used books, give them a new home, or make them into a work of art, you have plenty of options.
5 Things to Do With Used Books
1. Sell Them
There are plenty of online and offline options for making money from your used books. For example, you can sell them at a garage sale, and take advantage of local rummage or vendor sales.
There are even also plenty of options for selling your used books online.
When selling books online, you’re responsible for making sure your used books get into the proper hands. Keep in mind, that if you take too long to send the books or send them in a manner where they can get damaged, you might receive a poor seller rating which can impact future sales.
- Amazon Marketplace: Amazon offers different options for selling used books. Amazon Marketplace is a popular website for secondhand booksellers, and you can also take advantage of their program for selling used textbooks. Your book will stay in Amazon’s marketplace until it sells, and Amazon takes a percentage of the sale. You can either send your used books to Amazon and they’ll ship them out from their facilities, or send them out on your own.
- Ebay: You can sell your books on Ebay in a couple of different ways. You can put your books up for auction so that people bid and you can accept the higher offer, or you can set a “Buy Now” price. When you auction your books there’s a time limit. Thus, if your book doesn’t sell in a week, it’s no longer advertised on the website and you either have to start the process again or find another outlet.
- Alibris: A website for secondhand books, textbooks, and rare books, Alibris offers a place to sell your books, and provides you with a variety of tools to make and track your sales.
- Abe Books: For those who have many books to sell, Abe Books is a good option. Because you have to pay a subscription fee, it’s probably not worth it for the occasional seller. However, Abe Books allows you to sell rare books, textbooks, and both new and used books.
- Barnes and Noble – Barnes and Noble, a popular bookseller, has an area for members to sell their used textbooks. Barnes and Noble also has a seller portal for you to sell used books.
- Books A Million: Books A Million, another popular online bookseller, also has an online marketplace where users can sell both new and used books.
Before putting your books up for sale, be sure to read all fine print so you know what type of commission the bookseller receives, and if there are shipping and other requirements. Compare several different booksellers to see which is the best fit for you.
2. Donate Them
There are so many places to donate books, I won’t be able to cover them all. Here are some suggestions:
- The Library – The library often takes book donations to either use to stock their shelves or sell in discounted book sales. Books should be in reasonably good condition. Also, you should call before dropping off. While libraries appreciate donations, they don’t often enjoy having a ton of books dumped in some random spot outside. Plus, if you’re doing a big drop off, they want to be available to receive them at a time that’s convenient for all involved.
- Seniors – I always donate to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The seniors there are voracious readers and appreciate having new books to read. As with the library, do call to make sure the facilities can use the books and to establish a drop off time. Senior Citizen centers might also accept book donations for their members to browse and take home, but again, call first.
- The Military – Another favorite place to donate are organizations that send care packages to the military. Operation Shoebox often takes donations as do Support Our Troops, Operation Paperback, and Operation Gratitude. VA Hospitals also appreciate donations.
- Prisons – Help to educate and rehabilitate with books. The Prison Book Program sends books to prisons around the country.
- The Needy – There are so many ways to donate books to the needy.
- For example, The Salvation Army takes book donations.
- The African Library Project send books to places where people want to learn and read, but don’t have the resources.
- Book Aid International also gets books into readers’ hands, but they only accept new books.
- Books for kids assists young readers, but do check their guidelines before donating.
- There are so many charities that take books. Do a web search to see what’s local to you!
A couple of other ideas for donating your used books are to put them out in front of your house with a sign that says “Free Books!” Most people who do this find that all books are gone within a matter of hours, depending on how busy a street you live on. Also, you can freecycle your books – but be sure to follow the rules put forth by your local Freecycle organization.
3. Trade Them
There are online book swap places where you can send your old books, and find some new books. I haven’t used any book swap programs, so I can’t tell you which are best. Here are some that I found online when I researched. Please do your due diligence and research each site fully before committing to swap.
Most book swaps are free to join, but you’ll have to pay all postage.
4. Recycle Them
If used books are so far gone that you can’t sell or donate them, you can always recycle them. Books aren’t the easiest to recycle because of the book-binding glue, but there are ways. Most recycling centers accept used book donations. It’s a good idea to call before recycling, especially if you are recycling a lot of books at the same time.
For example, your local recycle center might require you to remove the spine or binding before putting books in the recycle pile. You may also have to neatly stack and tie books together with twine.
5. Repurpose Them
Before we share some ideas for repurposing or recycling books, please know that we don’t approve of tearing books apart for craft projects unless they’re in very poor condition. With that said, there are people who are doing some interesting things with used books. By the way, these options are only put out here for examples, please don’t steal another artists’ work!
- Wall art – Made from the pages of old books.
- Holiday Ornaments – Made with clear glass bulbs and strips from books. Here’s another example.
- Folded Book Art – Mark an occasion or express yourself with folded book art. Here’s one marking an anniversary and another expressing “Love.”
- Book Rose – Instead of tissue paper decorations, you can make flowers using old books. Or make a whole bouquet out of more colorful books.
- Give Them a New Cover – If your cover is a little battered, give your book a new decorative cover.
- Jewelry – Some people make jewelry out of used books. For example, these earrings, this pendant, or this one.
- Storage – If your book has a sturdy cover and spine, but the pages leave something to be desired, hollow them out for some clever hidden storage.
When it’s time to get rid of your old books, there are plenty of options! Whether you’re giving your used books a new life or a new home, it’s good to use them to brighten up someone else’s day.
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