Twelve Ways to Get Rid of Your Old Books

As a writer (and literary packrat), I periodically find my nightstand and the shelves of my office bookcases sagging under the weight of enormous stacks of books. I seem to accumulate them without even realizing it, and admit that in the case of some of them, such as my recent flea market find, "WWII Veterinary Care Manual for Horses," I never get farther much than the table of contents.


I'm a softy for stray books (and animals) and I can't bear to part with them unless I know their going to good homes. If you're like me and your bookshelves are about to buckle under the strain of unused books, here are some ideas for lightening your literary load.
  1. Donate them to your local library. If your books are relatively new, your local library may accept them for circulation. At the very least, most libraries have annual books sales as a way of raising funds to purchase new titles. If they can't use them they may have suggestions as to who can.

  2. Seek out local organizations and businesses. Try schools, nursing homes, community centers, hospitals, dentist offices, senior centers, women's shelters, homeless shelters, the Goodwill, the Salvation Army, jails, child care facilities, thrift shops, veterinary clinics or any business or organization you can think of with a waiting room.

  3. Bring them to a used bookstore. Many bookstores specializing in used books will either give you credit, make a trade or buy back books that are in good condition. Some may also offer to sell them for you on a consignment basis.

  4. Pass them on to your friends, family and co-workers. You're likely to acquire some new reads in return, but at least your old books will be enjoyed by new readers. Swapping books within your inner circle is also a great low cost way to expand your literary horizons and expose yourself to other points of view.

  5. Box them up and put them in the break room at work along with a "free" sign. This tactic has worked well for me on a number of occasions.

  6. Give them away as gifts. When you're willing to surrender your prized copy of War and Peace to someone, you're definitively sending them a message that you hold them in the highest esteem.

  7. Hold a neighborhood book swap. If you have children, ask them to choose a few books they might be willing to part with and bring them along. This is a great way to foster relationships with the people in your neighborhood. Not so fond of your neighbors? Join the folks at ( and swap your books online. Similar sites include and

  8. Read them and set them free! is the world's largest book online club. Their goal is to make the entire a world one big free library. Members log on (free of charge) and enter their favorite books into the site's database. Each book is then assigned a unique ID number. Readers can then download a ready-made ID label, tag their book and leave it in a public place to be serendipitously picked up and read by others.

    The ID label encourages the books' finder to visit the site and report finding the book. You can watch online as your book travels around the world and read the various reactions of the people who find your book!

  9. Sell your books online. There are dozens (probably hundreds) of auction sites and booksellers online that connect buyers to the sellers of used books. Check out,, and To sell used college books, try, or

  10. Freecycle them. Hundreds of communities across the country have set up freecycle groups where people can post items their willing to give away. To find one in your area (anywhere in the world), visit,, or

  11. Send them overseas. Check with the churches in your area. Many will collect books for various charitable organizations abroad. The University at Albany keeps a directory of book donation programs worldwide, including tips on how to donate. Visit them at

  12. Finally, if you don't want to re-read them, try and reuse them. Thick, hard-covered books can be turned into boxes to hide keepsakes and small valuables by gluing the pages together, cutting out a compartment in the pages with an exacto knife and lining the inside. Salvage interesting covers and bind them with writing paper to create a journal, or cut out pictures from your favorite books and make a literary collage.


About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at

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By Sherry French (Guest Post)
September 22, 20060 found this helpful

13.) If you have a hardback book that is damaged on the inside or pages are missing, as sometimes happens to the older ones; As long as the cover is in good shape,(or not) you can spray paint (Metallic Gold works well)it a coordinating color of a room in your home to match the decor, tie it up with a coordinating ribbon and attach a dry flower arrangement or bow, etc. on top, placed on a table under a lamp, or if small enough, even on a mantel... cheap, great looking decor idea.

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By Heather (Guest Post)
September 23, 20060 found this helpful

Great ideas! Here are two more: lets people from around the USA swap books for free. I have gotten rid of tons of books this way and saved hundreds of dollars on ones I wanted.

Also, a new art form is the "Altered Book". Just Google it for more info. It is where you take a book no longer useful and do art work in it, on it, whatever! It is quite a facinating idea!


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September 23, 20060 found this helpful

I have seen lamps made out of a stack of books and I have seen a wall that was wallpapered from pages of old hardcover books. I use some of my favorite, old hardcover books stacked on top of one another with figurines on them and a bit of fake ivy around them, it brings a little interest and color to my fireplace mantel.

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By barbara (Guest Post)
September 23, 20060 found this helpful

nursing homes residents love to look at them thanks

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By Christina (Guest Post)
May 28, 20080 found this helpful

Hi, my name is Christina, and thanks for all the good information. If anyone has extra children's books that they could stand to donate, I am taking donations. They will be delivered along with a teddy bear to the Child Abuse Prevention Center along with a few other places. So if you have some children's books please contact me, my e-mail is christina.deann AT thanks!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
September 22, 20090 found this helpful

Check out this site, A price comparison search engine for books and textbooks. It searches for the lowest prices among the major online stores worldwide and also offers discount coupons. You can also choose among various shipping options to calculate the lowest price

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
December 16, 20090 found this helpful

I just want to add an emphatic recommendation for It's an incredibly well-designed and run web site. If you're willing to be patient, eventually you'll be offered almost any book on your "wish list."

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
December 16, 20090 found this helpful

I just want to add an emphatic recommendation for It's an incredibly well-designed and run web site. If you're willing to be patient, eventually you'll be offered almost any book on your "wish list."

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

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