By brendan | March 20, 2009
One of the most common questions we get from customers and booksellers alike is “where can I donate my used books?” So, I thought I’d take a moment to offer some suggestions for the bibliophile looking to lighten his or her shelves.
Donating your books can be a wonderful way to make a difference to a non-profit organization, even when the purse strings are tight (aren’t everyone’s these days?).
But, first things first – please make note of this very important rule for donating used books:
If you wouldn’t want them on your living room shelves, very likely nobody else will either!
If you can describe a book as moldy, stinky, torn, pages missing, ragged or just plain icky, please don’t make it someone else’s problem. You might as well bring them your kitchen garbage as a donation, too!
Recycle paperbacks them by simply taking them to a paper recycling center as-is; for hardcovers, you must first rip off the covers and throw them away and recycle the text block (the book that remains after you’ve taken off the covers and spine).
Once you’ve culled the mold, there are plenty of organizations that are always in need of books (in good shape!) for their programs. Some ideas you might want to check in to locally might include (listed in no order of preference):
- Homeless shelters. Especially womens’ shelters, as there are often kids staying with their mom’s. Good childrens’ books are almost always welcome. You might check with the staff at the shelter first to make sure they don’t have any specific restrictions on the types of books they don’t want.
- Prisons. Your local detention center or prison may be a great place to donate some books. Note, though: be certain to check with them about their requirements for donations. Most likely, they will not want hardcover books, and will be very stringent about the subject matter.
- Local schools. Your local elementary or secondary school often needs books for students learning to read. However, they are going to have specific books they are looking for. Ask a teacher or administrator for a wishlist of books that they need for their classroom, and donate any that might apply. You could also check with area pre-schools.
- Friends of the Library. Most likely, your local library system has a friends of the library organization that works to raise money for the library through the sale of used books at regular library book sales. They will generally welcome books of all subject matters in nice condition.
- Local thrift stores. This includes Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill and Salvation Army in addition to smaller charity run thrift shops that may be benefiting specific needs in your community. They will generally sell the books you donate to raise money for their respective causes, so be certain that you believe in the cause they support (and be certain they are a non-profit group; there are a number of thrift stores that are purely for-profit enterprises).
- Hospitals. Believe it or not, your local hospital will likely appreciate small book donations here and there, to share with folks who are there for an extended stay. Check with the administration first, of course.
If you’re not able to find a local cause to donate your books to, there are a couple of places that accept book donations shipped to them (although because of the cost of shipping, donating to a local cause is almost always going to be the most efficient way to “invest” your books):
- Books For Soldiers. This non-profit group helps you get books into the hands of U.S. troops overseas. You will have to submit an application and be approved to ship books this way.
- Books for Africa. A great organization that works to build libraries and schools in Africa. Textbooks in English and French are always welcome, but so are nearly any other books in reasonable condition.
- Better World Books. Better World Books is not actually a non-profit – they are a for-profit company, but partner with various charitable causes to help raise money. When you send books to them, they will sell them for prices ranging from $0.01 and up, and will generally share 30% of the revenue with a non-profit of your choice. Books that they can’t use are recycled.
I’m certain there are others in this category, but those are the one I’m familiar with at the moment – if you know of others, make sure and drop us a comment, so we can include them!