I realize "get rid of" might sound a little aggressive, but rest assured I don't mean in a Fahrenheit 451 manner or anything. Books represent knowledge which, as you may have noticed, I love to share freely; so I constantly get rid of books by swapping with friends or sending them to family members via media mail (the super slow and cheap choice). And as I become more of a minimalist, I also find myself parting with that growing stack of books I thought I'd read, but probably never will. I'd like to pass on to you some of the best ways I've discovered to share, swap, or donate used and unwanted books.
Swap Through the Mail
Swap sites are cropping up everywhere which is indicative of the new sharing economy. There are quite a few book swapping sites, but the following seem to be the ones most people are happy with. I haven't used any of them personally.
BooksFreeSwap: After joining and activating your free account you can list books or audiobooks you no longer want, along with their condition, and you will be notified when a member wants your listed title. The recipient pays shipping, you pack the book, print the prepaid label, and mail it. Create your own Wish List and you'll be notified when the books are listed and available. In order to help support the community atmosphere at BooksfreeSwap, you must list 5 Items and add funds (minimum $10) to your account before you can receive a book from another member.
BookMooch: This site is completely free through a points system; in order to mooch books from others, you need to earn points which you use up as you get free books from other people. Entering in a book you own and want to give away gets you 1/10th of a point. Giving books away gets you 1-3 points. You can also give your points to the charities they work with. See more about the points system here.
WhatsOnMyBookshelf: This one also uses points; for every 5 books that you register on the site you will receive 1 credit as a promotion. List your books and either write a description or use a commercial description. Members also control the categorization of books. Unlike a library or bookstore, the organization of books depends upon personalized tagging rather than traditional categories or numbering schemes. Other users request your book by redeeming some of their credits. You pay to ship the book, but it's free to receive.
Host a Book Swap
My mom periodically hosts a books swap. They are really fun and easy to pull off:
- Pick a date.
- Send out invites.
- Everyone brings their unwanted books.
- Pile up the books and swap away (or take turns if you prefer).
- Get rid of the leftovers with one of the methods in this post.
- BONUS: Literary-themed refreshments!
I've written about Yerdle* before. Their aim is to reduce consumption by promoting a sharing community, which certainly includes books. List your books (or anything) on Yerdle from the mobile app and receive points which you can use to get other stuff. This is a good option if you want something other than books for your books. The recipient pays the shipping ($2-4), you print the label, and then send it off.
Sell or Trade at a Local Bookstore
I'm lucky enough to have the excellent Strand Bookstore and Westsider Books here in NYC. But many local used bookstores take trade-ins for cash or store credit. One more reason to support the increasingly rare local, independent bookstores.
If you'd rather just donate your unwanted books, there are many options available.
Thrift stores: Your local thrift store will gladly take and resell or recycle your books, so just drop them off!
Shelters: Local shelters often take books as well, especially children's books in the women's shelters. Call ahead and ask for details.
Reading Reflections: Reading Reflections was started by the family of Edith and Morris Mendelsohn. Read the story here. They accept all new and gently used books, both children's and adult which are then donated to various organizations worldwide.
Better World Books*: One of my favorite places to buy used books, Better World Books also accepts donations which they then sell (for charity funds) or donate to various organizations including The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) and Room To Read. They even pay for shipping and the carbon offsets that are part of their triple bottom line. Donate here.
Books for Soldiers: You need to register for the site, but once you do, you can help out the troops by sending soldiers the books they requested through the website.
Book4Cause: Many of the donations from Book4Causes drives and donation campaigns go to Africa to support the Good Books for Africa program.
Operation Paperback: This nonprofit allows you to send your used books directly to the troops. After registering with the site, you can request the addresses of troops overseas based on their requested genre. And if you're concerned about the cost of shipping, it costs around $6 to send a box of 20 paperbacks.
As you can see, there are numerous options for getting rid of books you no longer need or want. Fortunately, swaps and local bookstores are also good ways to replenish your stock. If possible, buy used books or borrow from your local library.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
With a background in education, Elizabeth Stilwell produces engaging, actionable content as editor-in-chief of The Note Passer . A proud sustainability nerd, her aim is to be a resource for ethical alternatives that benefit both people and the environment. The Note Passer is inspiration for better, sustainable future; one that's full of more meaning and less waste. Elizabeth’s graphics, photography, and words have have appeared on EF Magazine, Moral Fibres, BF+DA, EcoGreenLove, and others. She is also a co-founder of the Ethical Writers Coalition, a group of writers who are furthering ethical and sustainable living online and in print.