How to Set Your Book Collection Free

5 Ways to Shrink Your Book CollectionYou read my post about deconstructing my book collection, you felt motivated to clean out your book case and now you’re ready to set all of those books you’ll never read again (or never read at all) free.

Good on ya! When you separate the wheat from the chaff and only keep what you truly love you’ll feel lighter, have more space to breathe and will actually see the things that give you joy.

But what to do with those books that no longer have a place in your life?

Here’s a list of new homes for your unwanted books.

Drop them off at your local library. 

Most libraries accept used books. (It’s always best to ask first.) Sometimes librarians will keep books that are useful for the library’s existing collection but most sell donated books to raise money for library programs and yes, buy new books for the stacks.

Sell them.

Used book stores are a great way to while away a rainy afternoon as you hunt for treasures. Luckily, treasure hunting goes both ways and you can consign or outright sell your books there too. If you live in a larger city with a number of used book stores and you have a lot of books to sell, call ahead to see if the store has a particular niche. Stores close to universities and colleges are good places to unload textbooks and classics, stores near camping grounds look for paperbacks and summer time reading and some book stores pay top price for rare, out of print and first editions.

If selling used books online excites the entrepreneur in you, check out this post on Cheatsheet on how to make money  selling used books online.

Donate them.

Schools, churches, hospitals and community groups often have used book sales. Check out Craigslist or Kijiji for “Book Sale” to see who’s got a sale coming up. Call them up and ask if you can donate to the sale. Sometimes they’ll even volunteer to come get them. Bonus!

If the books you have would appeal to a certain demographic, donate them to a group that serves that demographic. Children’s   books to daycare,  novels to a seniors’ centre, books on local history to the genealogical society … you get the picture.

You can also donate them to a charitable re-seller like the Salvation Army or to a group that collects articles for Value Village. I donate to the Canadian Diabetes Foundation.  (No encyclopedias or textbooks, please!) They schedule regular pick ups in my area and all I have to do is bag ’em, tag ’em and put them on the front steps. Easy peasy!

Give them away.

I once worked at a place that kept a small shelf of books in the lunch room. Everyone was free to take or leave a book to read and return. See if your workplace wants to try the same thing and offer to donate an armful  – or two! – to get the ball rolling.

Put out the word to your friends and family that you have books to give away. Take them to the cottage, re-gift the really good ones or start a book club where people can share and trade books over a glass of wine and gossip high brow literary discussion.

If you live in a condo or apartment building, put a few books on the ledge by the front door or the mail boxes with a sticky that says FREE. If they disappear quickly, you’re probably safe leaving a few more there. Just don’t leave a big honkin’ pile of books there in the hopes that someone will take the lot. More likely, they will end up in the trash, courtesy of the super.

Check out online trading sites like BookMooch.  You pay for shipping but you also get points for every book shipped out. You can use those points to request books from other book lovers (who will ship to you, natch).

BookCrossing is something I used to use and had forgotten about. Using the free site, register the book(s) you want to set free, stick a label with a book-specific tracking number inside, and leave it in a public place for someone else to find.  I’ve picked up books at bus stops, in coffee shops and once in a ski lodge.  When you take it home and read it you can log in to the site, record when and where you found the book and even leave a few notes about what you thought of the book. It’s cool to see where your books go!

Want to send your books on an international journey? There are many organizations that accept book donations at no cost to the donor. In the U.S., check this list from the American Library Association. In Canada a great place to donate is Textbooks for Change. This is a great option as most places won’t take textbooks.

Trash is trash.

That waterlogged paperback you dropped in the bathtub? The out-of-date textbook from your college days? Anything that’s reprinted annually? Toss them (respectfully) into the recycle bin.  Don’t throw them into the garbage. That’s not cool school.


Some of these methods encourage you to bring new (old) books into your home.  Read them, love them, then pass them on too.  Share the joy!

Have you used any of these methods for re-homing books? Do you have any other suggestions?  Let me know what you think!

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