Clearing off your book shelves? Ensure they find a good home

'Book shelf' photo (c) 2010, Johanna Billingskog - license:’m doing some tidying up of my unread book piles, pulling out titles that peaked my interest a few years ago, but that I’m no longer inclined to need.   Given the rise of the used book market, it isn’t worth posting to, when I’m likely to bring in $1 or less for most of the tomes I want to send on to their next home.

The next best thing to money is another book, which is why I list books in need of a good home at BookMooch.  At BookMooch I earn points for each book I send to a fellow member.  In turn, I get to use those points to mooch books from other users.

But like any retailer experiences, some books just aren’t flying off the shelves in your chosen location or demographic.  Thus, I’ve been looking for alternative places to distribute books in need of new homes.

Your local library

The most obvious choice for donation is your local library, most of which will give you a receipt that you can probably use to write off the donation come tax time. Older books aren’t likely to go into circulation, but they may wind up being sold as part of the regular used book sale fundraising.

For those of you looking for more creative places to donate your used books, there are plenty of options.


Looking to get rid of old college textbooks?  Already solved that quarterlife crisis and don’t need those self-help books any more?  Look no further than your local prison.  While the rules vary from prison to prison, many accept a variety of educational and recreational reading materials, since their library budgets are limited.

We all know the resale value of college text books is limited since new editions with different pagination are constantly being issued.  Here’s an opportunity to really pay it forward.

  • Books Behind Bars provides information about what types of reading materials are accepted by prisons all around the country and to whom you should ship your donation

Prisons also gladly accept used fiction, particularly paperback since it’s easier to ship.

  • Books to Prisoners is a volunteer organization that ships requested titles to individual prisoners nationwide.  They send out close to 10,000 books a year are are always looking  to replenish their stockpile.


People are still looking for ways to support the troops abroad.  Shipping your collection of Stephen King paperbacks to deployed soldiers is one way to go.

Low-income kids

Basic literacy will forever be a key component of early childhood education.  Unfortunately not all school libraries are well-stocked and not all families can afford to buy books for home.  These groups try to put books in the hands of young learners throughout the country.  So if you have gently used children’s titles to get out of the house, consider these two groups.

  • Books First distributed more than 15,000 books to teachers and their classes in 2007, benefiting more than 2000 pupils.
  • Project Nightlight reaches out to homeless children, providing “individual tote bags each filled with a security blanket, an age-appropriate book, and a stuffed animal to children (ages 0-10) in homeless shelters.”  They are always looking for like new books to be included in their care packages; if you’re as obsessive about your books as I am about mine, most of them are like new.

When all else fails, Got Books?  The group ensures no books winds up in a landfill.   Some books they sell, donating half the proceeds to a variety of charities, and others they donate to schools.

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Tried donating books to my local and poorly stocked public library and ran head on into the “oh we can’t accept books directly from the public without filling out the proper forms, etc.” thing so I looked for and found several local used book stores who accepted all and gave me credit for some to use in purchase from their stock. It’s hard, though, to let books go since I rarely buy anything that I don’t want to keep.
And I love having these old friends around to reference.


Perpetual, you sound like me with hundreds of books in your home. What an awesome way to give them to a new owner. Do you miss the books at all? I tend to doodle and take notes in the margins of good non-fiction, so I’m not sure I’ll ever give up that part of my collection, but fiction seems more easily rereadable with a visit to the library.



I sent most of my paperbacks to overseas military folks through a church project but my hardbacks I trade at I find the books (and DVDs) move a little faster than at bookmooch and I enjoy bookins’ website more. It feels more like browsing a bookstore to me. They provide the postage & mailing label, which you print out at home, they track all shipments, and make sure you get back items of equal value. They even provide replacements at their expense for lost or damaged items. Take a look (


Last year I donated 500+ books to my local cancer hospice.

I sorted all my old books out, kept the ones that I felt I’d read again at some point and gave the rest away. The hospice decided to keep half for patients and visitors to read and to sell half in their shops to raise some money.

All being well I’ll do the same at the end of this year, albeit with just a years books rather than almost a decades worth.


Sadly, I provided no UK resources.

I”ve dallied with the idea of book crossing, but I’m not sure that abandoning books ensures them a new home somewhere. I worry about my darlings.


What a fitting article for me today. I have ‘find out what I can do with my old books’ on my to do list for today.

Off the top of my head, another option you haven’t mentioned is You can exchange books with other members, but the real point is to randomly leave the books at certain drop off points, or just wherever you fancy, whether it be a coffee shop, doctors waiting room, or the middle of a park. You give the book a unique code and people who find the books have the opportunity to log onto the website and fill in a little journal entry about where they found the book etc. Some books travel all over the place.