help me decide what to do with all these books!

oofasisDecember 19, 2007

So, after a lifetime of an emotional attachment to the books I've read, keeping almost (but not quite) every single one, I've reached a brave but sad milestone: Not gonna hold on to 'em anymore. It's all just too much stuff.

What are your suggestions to do with all these books? Most are in truly excellent condition. Donate them to the library and/or shelters for women and teens? Offer them on Freecycle? Would it be too daunting a task to try to sell them on eBay? (for little "gain"?)

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I think it would be helpful for you to come up with a list of conditions under which you would willingly part with your books.

Do you want to receive money in exchange for books? Do you really, really just want your books to go to an appreciative reader? Are you just desperate to get them out of your home any way possible, even if it's to compost in the forest? Ask yourself what would make you happiest. Ask yourself if you are willing to do the work it takes to assure those conditions. Then there will be no regrets about giving away your books, and your mind will be freed.

I have been Freecycling a lot of stuff that I realized was just clutter, keeping me from living my life. Why hold onto it until you can find a way to get rid of it while making money? That will only delay the awesome feeling of freedom you get from removing the roadblocks from your home.

Maybe this is outside the scope of your projects, but I would search out charities in your community, and make a list of what each one will accept. Then you can quickly find a willing recipient.

Of course, your books might be particularly valuable, in which case, it is important to at least get them into the right hands. Selling them online might be a solution. Freecycling might also accomplish that, since you can screen your recipients.

After the new year, I will Freecycle all the college textbooks I used to learn the Japanese language. This will be a big job, but I want the books to go directly to somebody who is already a serious student of the Japanese language, not end up in a library book sale for some speculator to snap up.

I recently tried to sell some more of my books on Amazon. It used to be profitable for me a few years ago, as a small seller. But the rising fees and aggravating lowballers meant that I was actually losing money on shipping supplies and postage, and working for absolutely nothing. I pulled all of my inventory and haven't looked back.

Perhaps Ebay would work if the book is collectible, or somehow more valuable than most. Depending on the nature of the books, I'd try Ebay, but Freecycle might get faster results with less work.

If your books are of general interest, such as fiction, and not highly specialized non-fiction, perhaps the local library might be the best place for them.

I also just take a couple of books along when I know I'm going to a doctor or dentist office. I leave them for someone else to pick up and read. I hope I'm not just contributing to the clutter in the office when I do that. Maybe you could leave a note inside that reads, "Like me? Take me with you!"

Just a few ideas and observations to help you come up with a plan of your own. Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 10:47AM
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I tend to donate my books.

I did the thinking that MaryLiz suggested (GREAT exercise she proposes, really for all the stuff we've decided we have too much of!!) and that what's important to me is that they go to an interested reader. I feel no need to make money off of them. I just want them to add to the world of books in general.

So, I do one of two things:

I give them to the library. Often they don't put them on the shelves necessarily, bcs they may not be sturdy enough. If they don't, then they sell them at a used book sale, and the money helps the library. This is good, because what I'm trying to do more of is check books out--read them, and then "store" them on the library's shelves.

I give them to a charity called HousingWorks (, which has a used bookstore here in NYC. Lots of book-loving New Yorkers buy books there, so I know my books have a good shot at ending up in a loving home. Plus I'm helping the cause a little bit. But most of all, my DH will go there, taking books with him.

and that's an important part of the "get it out of my house" strategy, as MaryLiz points out: Are you willing/able to do the work it would take to get rid of these things in the pathway you've found?

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 10:55AM
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I once threw a couple of books I didn't want in the local library book return. I thought it was funny, would they keep them and put them on a shelf or try to sell them or throw them out? I also put a couple of movie DVDs in the return drop at Blockbuster. I'm very naughty. Now I put books, magazines amd movies on table at my local laundromat. I check every week and somebody always takes them.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 10:58AM
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I'll start with a thought that might make letting the books go a little easier for you. Let's say I buy a paperback for $7. It would cost me $7 (or more!) to go to the movies, which are over in 2 hours or less. For the $7 I spend on a book, I am usually entertained for at least 3 hours, if not more. So the money is well spent if you get nothing else out of the book after the one reading.

I don't read every book I buy, but then, I usually don't pay full price either. And I read a lot from the library (free!). So my cost per book read is pretty low. I get my money out of them.

There is a store near me called Half Price Books, and they will buy books. Unless you have new or popular books, you won't get much for them, but they will give you something, usually, and the books are then out of your hair.

I have some books I keep, but if a book isn't something I know I'm going to want around in the future, I try to let it go. (I still have a lot of books.)

Jean Marie

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 11:16AM
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All good thoughts, and I thank you. One that really stood out for me: Why hold onto it until you can find a way to get rid of it... That will only delay the awesome feeling of freedom you get from removing the roadblocks from your home. I'm going to Google local charities right now, as a start. Books have always been portals for me; perhaps, figuratively, my donations can be a "door" to some.

You know, it's odd that for so long I've enjoyed being surrounded by my books. Now I seem to feel weighted down by them, closed in by them. This is definitely a new threshold for me. I looked up the word: "The place or point of beginning."

If I'm donating, does anyone know if there's a tax write-off of any kind?

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 12:17PM
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I've asked myself,why do I save books? I have never re-read even one of them. I think I keep them as trophies, to show what a good person I am, I have read so many good books. Or maybe they are like friends. I don't want them to leave me, ever, so I put them on a shelf. Some books I keep for reference, like cook books and gardening books. I need to keep them around so I can look things up.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 12:53PM
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When I've donated other items to charities, they usually give you a blank form for you to fill in the dollar amount yourself. I don't know what the guidelines are on that, tho'.

When I'm home for Christmas, I want to clear out a shelf of my books in my parents basement. Some of them I'll keep, but like you, oofasis, I don't know what to do with the rest of them. A lot of 25 year old college books, and books on such esoteric topics it's hard to think where to take them. They were mostly presents from the family, so they all are inscribed.

Some of the paperbacks or books with no particular significance will be pretty easy to dispose of, but I think several boxes will end up at my apartment while I decide what to do with them.

Sort of defeats the purpose of cleaning out my living space, but I think my parents need that area cleaned a little more!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 1:19PM
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I do re-read books.

Those are the ones I have kept.

I probably re-read my Dick Francis mysteries 12 times. But when i realized that I'd pick one up, start to read it, and sigh because it was so familiar that there were no more surprises, I realized I needed to let them go.

Now I pass them on lickety-split if I don't think they'd stand up to a repeat reading.

You can join, but i warn you: it is NOT a way to get rid of books. There are 1,749,768 books listed on their website, and only about 1,000 members online at any one time. I've found that in fact, I end up having to store books carefully so i can find them when someone requests them. But for a voracious reader who's not too picky about the condition of the books she reads, it's an OK way to get new books to read.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 2:45PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

My local "Friends of the Library" accepts books at all times for their fund raisers. They can be a tax deductible donation too.

I usually run my used books by good friends first that they can pick out anything of interest b4 I get rid of them. I only keep reference type books...gardening, cook, health, finance/investing, how-to, etc


    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 4:34PM
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Great thread!

My ex abandoned maybe 300 theology books, some never opened. I sold scads of them on, which is eBay's service for selling used books at a fixed price.

It's very easy to enter books by their ISBN, determine a book's quality rating, and compare then set prices. There's no pictures, no auction, no haggling over shipping (there's just a set fee you get), and you can set your account on "vacation" when you're not available to mail books that might sell.

Here's my take on selling:

1. I don't find it worth it to sell anything for less than $10. It become a waste of my valuable time.

2. Textbooks are very popular at the beginning of semesters, but not in between times. I set my prices just below competitors because I WANT TO GET RID OF THESE BOOKS, not make a big profit. I love that students on a budget can get their textbook needs met on

However, students generally want/are assigned the newest edition of the text. Out-of-date textbooks, sadly, need to get chucked into the trash, unless a recycling program specifically takes them.

3. I purge my inventory once a year -- I gave away, via Craigslist, my last lot to a young seminarian. (For whatever reason, some things are easy to give away on Craigslist in my area than dealing with the legions of no-show Freecyclers we have).

For things not worth selling, like most paperbacks, my library has a book sale. They give tax receipts and everything. I low ball my estimate to 50 cents per paperback, $1 per hardback, $2 per VHS, and $3 to $5 per DVD. They even take old sci-fi magazines and small amounts of fairly recent National Geographics.

I never thought I'd send my precious books out the door. But in taking a critical look at them, I will keep only the truly precious ones -- my well-used cookbooks, my nature reference books (bird field guides, flora, etc.), my year books from school.

The rest I can borrow from the library when I need them -- or, if needs be, buy them on

I'm enjoying the space. And someone else is enjoying those books.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 4:49PM
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It's a sad fact of life that some books should be consigned to the can on garbage day. In most cases, you're not destroying history or your heritage. I come from a long line of book readers and there are a small handfull I reread and/or use for reference. But, aside from one's individual preferences - popular fiction, science fiction, biographies, histories, how-to's, photography, gardening, flowers, art, architecture, etc., some things are worth keeping for personal reasons and others because they look impressive on the coffee table, but some just aren't terribly well written or scholarly or are too outdated to be worthy of taking up a lot of space. And faced with the internet, does the 1950's or 60's edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica make anyone want to spend even a few dollars? There were millions of households nestbuilding after WWII and subscribing to Book of The Month, Readers Digest Condensed, etc. - trying to sell that stuff by any means is literally an exercise in futility. And many places won't take them even as donations simply because they don't sell and then they have to dispose of them.

I'd be pretty skeptical that it will be easy finding someone who wants old college texts. Those fall out of favor from semester to semester despite the fact that although the material might not change, the presentation of the material does. If I've learned one thing from Antiques Roadshow it's that books are nice but not often valuable. Unless, of course, you've got actual first editions (and not later printings of first editions) signed by the author.

I wish anyone who wants to go the Ebay, Craig's list, selling to used bookstores routes good luck. I found it so much more liberating to keep what I wanted and simply throw out the rest that were unsalable and even ungivable. When they were gone, so too was gone all the angst about what to do with books.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 5:08PM
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Goodwill here accepts donated books and your donation is subject to the usual tax deduction criteria.

This is a very emotional thing for me because I love many of my books--the ideas in them. They are not precious because of their bindings or pedigree. I mark them all up and note pages to reread on the inside cover. And I have a lot of how-to, reference books that I won't part with. But I have to sacrifice some before we move.

A good friend, a true booklover, who always had stacks of books she was actively reading all over her house, finally sold almost her entire collection to a book dealer before her out-of-state move. She was relieved to be out from under the responsibility for her books. She uses the library a lot more now.

And remember that scene that must have drawn gasps from around the country, when Seinfeld asked someone if they had read a book then why would they need to keep it?! I was one of the horrified onlookers! My books will be the single hardest thing to part with.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 5:34PM
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Oh, talley sue, I can't tell you how delighted I am to learn about This will serve very very nicely for me! Thanks! Kate.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 6:23PM
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I buy books at "Friends of the Library" and also buy at book stores & get them by swapping with friends. As I go through books--I read a lot, I offer them to friends & family first
then either donate to "Friends" or even leave them on airplanes, or on tables in the hospital if I am there. I recently noticed a book on a seat at the airport that had a sticker which said "I'm not lost, please read me" It mentioned a website where you could enter where you got the book and where it was dropped off. I lost the note though, does anyone know more about that group?
In my car, I carry a bunch of used magazines from my office, and leave them at the health club, at court when I'm there, in the jury room and recently I handed a magazine to somebody next to me at Burger King. We struck up an interesting conversation when I laughed and assured her it was Time and not a religious tract, and I wasn't selling
magazines either.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 7:42PM
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we were in the same situation and sorted the book that we felt we did not 'need' anymore - this amounted to around 70 boxes. It took a while, but i checked on line for prices for these books. we had many that were valued at over $50. Finally we decided that any book valued at $15 or over we would keep and when we had time put them on ebay or Amazon. The rest (50 boxes) we donated to the library, goodwill, and a couple of shelters. Three years later we still have twenty boxes of books waiting to be sold...........

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 6:45AM
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The site where you can register books you leave for the next person is

I have become wary of donating. At a recent library book sale, I was the only one (of about 20 people) without a handheld scanner device, whereby resellers check prices on Amazon before they buy. If you really want to help the charity, sell the valuable books yourself (on half or amazon) and donate the money! (Only a very small percentage of books are worth selling, however).

I belong to both and Both excellent swapping sites with different personalities.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 10:36AM
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Marge, the site you're looking for is Book Crossing ( I often will "release" books into the wild when I'm done with them if I don't want to keep them around, and it's a fun way to see where they go once they leave you. :-)

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 1:22PM
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Here's my tip about reducing the chance of a no-show with Freecycle:

Because I have had several offers going at the same time, I don't want to waste time on casual window shoppers who reply, telling me that they are interested, then don't ever write back a second time for the address. (I don't give out my address until I they have chosen a date & time.)

I have even started to state in my original offer that I need to know the DATE & APPROXIMATE TIME they will stop by for the item. I think that the commitment of deciding when they can come assures that they actually will. Without that date, I don't take them seriously.

Even after asking the recipient to commit, I still do get the rare no-show. I figure that something went wrong and their day went crazy and then they never got back to me because something else was far more important. But several of my initial no-shows wrote back to tell me that they'd like to come on another day, and then did come to get their item.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 1:59PM
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Please don't forget VA hospitals and veterans groups, depending on what types of book you have.

DH reads mostly spy, military, war and suspense novels so when it was time to let go of a few boxes, we wanted them to go to the VA hospital. I called our county veterans agency who referred me to the local office of the state agency. The people there said to bring them over and they would see that they got to the vets.

We've donated hundreds to libraries over the years. People bring in books to the gym for people to informally borrow; there's a table set up in the cardiologist's waiting room for people to take/trade, and so it goes.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2007 at 5:04AM
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jamie & amaretti--thanks so much for the infor on bookcrossing and bookmooch and swap. I will go check those sites. I always have books and magazines with me and distribute as I go.
After all these years I am getting allergic to some of the novels that Patricia Cornwall and others are writing and seem to get rid of those even before I finish them. Some of these books have so many ghastly murders you should be able to instantly spot the killer as they would be too busy to even shower and change clothes.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 7:56PM
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If you decide to donate them, another option would be to donate them to a local women's shelter or a VA hospital. They are always looking for reading material that is in good shape. Another option is to offer them to local dog rescues or public schools, both of which often have rummage sales or book sales as fund raisers. I just starting culling my stack as well - there are many I will never be able to get rid of, but I was surprised some weren't as hard to part with as I had thought!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 10:49AM
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I ended up taking 10 grocery bags of books from my folks house overthe holidays.

One bag came home with me. Two bags went to Half Price bookstore -- netted me $11 and a sigh of relief. Two bags went to the library for its book sale, inscriptions inked out. I wish them a long happy life. 5 bags went to the recycling centner, and I hope the book gods don't frown on me for that.

But I completely cleared a bookshelf and a half in my parents basement, which means my father can get the rest of his books off the floor and safely stored!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 1:07PM
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Yes, it's a tax write-off! As long as you don't sell the books or take money in return it's a donation and tax-deductible. Seriously, so many things are tax deductible. In my opinion, there's no reason to hang on to things trying to figure out who you're giving them to or waiting for the right person to want/take them. Donate and you're Done!

    Bookmark   January 12, 2008 at 6:36PM
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I took 2 1/2 boxes of books to the local used book shop which purchased 3 books for $8.40. Then I took the rest to Hastings and they purchased 1 1/2 boxes of the books for $64.00. The rest are in my car. Except for one book that I know is worth over $50.00 (from the sites someone posted to check on a book's worth), I should donate the rest.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2008 at 10:30PM
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Call a local nursing home or hospice to see if they would like the books.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 11:04AM
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I always take books to the library when I go. I put them in the donation box there. They are geared to handle them. They have a couple of book sales a year and do really make a useful amount of money. I don't care if people who buy them get a good deal or not. We don't have to deal with them any more and the library can always use the money. It's a win win deal.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 7:50PM
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A hospital in our area will take books and sells them at their gift shop. They sell them for $.50 soft cover and $1.00 for the hard. Inexpensive way for someone to get something to read if they have to be at the hospital for long. I think that is a great way to get rid of some of your books and help someone that will enjoy them.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 8:32PM
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We have a used bookstore in our area that will give you credit to buy if you bring in books in good condition. I bring them bags of books and usually go home with either books on tape (which I use when traveling)or used books I haven't read yet. You might check your area.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 10:45PM
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To answer the question about tax write-offs...

Last year, I gave away a lot of stuff. It felt great to declutter my home. And whenever possible, I collected the receipts from any charity that gave them out. They were too busy to actually write the receipt for me. They gave me the blank form, and let me figure out the value, on the honor system.

I had the receipts all saved up for the tax accountant. Then my husband convinced me that we couldn't claim them for our taxes. So I shredded them, along with all the other paper clutter I have been shredding.

Then the tax accountant said that if we had any receipts from donations to charity, he needed them for our tax return. I had several hundred dollars of donations, by my reckoning. He said we needed to try to reconstruct them,. He sent us a list of prices used by the Salvation Army to estimate the value of donations. I told my husband that there was no way I could remember everything I had given away. I refused to even try. I wanted it to be a lesson to him that if the wife lady puts a donation receipt into the tax folder, he is not to try to convince her to take it back out.

Now, it has backfired. I want him to get rid of some of his own stuff ... for example, his old trumpet that he hasn't played since high school. But he refuses to just Freecycle it, even though there was a request for a trumpet just last week, on the local Freecycle list. My hubby wants somebody to tell him exactly how much his trumpet is worth, so he can be sure to get the proper, full value of it as a donation from a place that will actually give him a receipt. So now, there is a huge obstacle to getting it out of the house!

Well, we are no worse off than before. The trumpet is still in the basement. And I'm still trying to get him to realize what he needs to receive in order to be willing to get it out of the house. I have yet to make him realize that he has to be willing to do the work to get it out of the house via the method he envisions. Baby steps!


    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 11:01AM
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Maryliz, Check out It's Deductible (link below). You don't have to be using any Intuit software like Quicken or TurboTax--the service is free for everybody. It lets you look up the fair market value that the IRS presumably allows for various items.

(I don't know if they cover trumpets!)

Here is a link that might be useful: It's Deductible

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 12:28PM
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Thank you, Erica! That will be very handy!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 3:43PM
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I've never ever, not even a tiny bit, regretted passing most of my books on, and I used to keep every single good one. Now I use the library totally.
I kept my Sara Donati books because I've already read them twice, so I figure I will read them a third time one day.
But that's it.
I used to keep good books for visiting family and friends to read, till I realised that they too can enjoy the library books in the house. I find myself stunned nowadays when friends pay up to $20 for the latest paperback and they don't even know till they've bought it if they're going to like it or not.
Oops, my 18 yr DS still has his collection of Harry Potter books in storage because he wants to keep them for his own kids. (He doesn't even have a GF yet, so I think that's kinda cute LOL) And I do have some boxes of kids' books for when the grandkids come to stay.
Ok, and I just remembered my Teresa Cutter cookbooks, but I use them lots, so they don't count do they? LOL

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 8:40PM
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