How do you get rid of books?

Posted June 10, 2018 by Lory in discussions / 50 Comments

This query is twofold: how do you decide which books to pass on, and what do you then do with them?

I’ve been dealing with these questions lately after completing my three-month book acquisition ban. I had gathered all (well, nearly all) of the unread books in my house into one place, and after three months of reading exclusively from those stacks I wanted to reassess and decide which ones to keep and which ones needed to move on.

In line with my general cleaning style, I tend to let such possessions pile up and then do a big purge all at once. The urge to purge came upon me the other day and I ruthlessly pruned the stacks of unsolicited review copies I had no immediate urge to read, purchases based on past interests that had now faded, and those arising from good intentions that I doubted I would ever follow through, plus books I’ve read and don’t need to keep any more.

It felt great, but now what to do with them? I’ve tried various things over the years, but my favorite strategy these days is to take my pile to my local independent book store, which has a terrific used books section, and see what they will accept. Then I donate the rest at the library around the corner for their seasonal used-book annex. So I’ve done a good deed, given some books a chance of finding new homes, and end up with store credit that I can use to buy more books! (Um, wait … is this a good thing?)

What are your strategies for honing your own book collection?


Some of the books I’m passing along this time.

Linked in the Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight!

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50 responses to “How do you get rid of books?

  1. For me, it’s the charity shop at the end of our street. I looked into selling them and they were only going to get me about 50p each whereas I know the charity shop can make more. So I kind of look at it as ‘giving back’. I used to feel really unhappy at giving books away – I had a big thing about wanting them again later. I think in a really weird way I wanted to own all books myself but now that I’ve stopped sharing houses with roommates and started building a home of my own with my partner, I feel a lot more relaxed about it. I’ve also been book-purging lately – the main one is reading a book and realising that I’m not that attached to it. Writing a review on it means that I have the memory so it’s ok to give it up. Reading all this back makes me realise what a hoarder I can be!

    • “Writing a review … means I have a memory.” I think that’s a big motive for me too, especially for books I have no intention of hanging on to.

    • Of course, the ideal would be have something like the Library in Discworld so we could really have access to All the Books. failing that, benefiting our local charity shop is great.

  2. I try to sell some on Amazon. I have a yard sale once a year too, and will car boot some during the summer, but mostly I take bags full to my local charity shop, not having a second-hand bookshop to get credit nearby.

      • Kirk Hess

        Powell’s is also an option, scaning the barcode is pretty easy. My last purge I netted about $100. They have better prices usually, but most books have a used value less than $1.
        Also, If a book is damaged in any way, please recycle it. Many get donated to libraries, who just toss them.

  3. How do I decide? Essentially books I don’t intend to read again (if I’ve already finished them) or books that, thinking about it, I never will get round to, pretty much as with you, Lory.

    And where do they go? As with Annabel, Girl and other UK readers, charity shops do well from our cast-offs, but also family, the odd friend with eclectic tastes and occasionally other members in the creative writing class I go to take the odd proffered copy. I never sell them on though, either too much hassle or I worry about being ripped off. (Not that they’re worth much.)

    • I feel good about selling mine to my excellent local indie bookstore. I get a bit of credit and they hopefully get some income.

  4. For me it depends. I just love donating books to places like my library, goodwill, or a local shop that will accept them. But where we are with our budgeting right now, I do also try to sell them if they are in good condition (and aren’t ARCs of course!).

  5. I just take mine to the charity shop. I’ve tried different methods of selling them, but it’s just too much hassle and they invariably end up still sat in a corner for months.

    I’ve gotten much better recently at getting rid of books that were just ‘alright.’ It’s party due to space contraints (my wall to wall bookshelves are overflowing) but also because I like looking at my shelves and knowing that I connected to each and every one of them, and they represent who I am.

  6. Lizzie Ross

    Little Free Libraries! In my neighborhood are one official and 4 unofficial book drops — take one/leave one.
    As for how to cull, that’s a difficult one. I know that I won’t reread about 50% of my current library, but too often I’ve found myself trying to track down a quote or scene, only to realize that the book in question is no longer in my possession. So, stubbornly, I hold on.

  7. What a timely topic. I just did a purge myself. I get sent too many books that I’m just not interested in reading, but that are never-the-less quality books. I’m a teacher and know that a lot of my colleagues like to catch up on reading in the summer. So, the other day I took two big bags of books to school and left them with a free sign on on the table in the teacher’s lounge. When I went back in there 90 minutes later ALL the books were gone. It felt good.

    • Yes, I had to let go of books that were good but I hadn’t requested and just don’t know when I might feel like reading. It was hard but felt right.

      Yay for teachers taking books!

  8. I try to get rid of books that don’t mean a lot to me, or that I can easily get again through the library. I keep books that I know I want to re-read/cannot easily borrow.

    There is a Little Free Library in my neighborhood, so I often put books there. The rest get donated to the Friends of the Library used booksale, which I volunteer for anyway. So it’s very convenient — I just wait for a Wednesday morning and take them with me, and try not to bring even more books back home again!

    • Yes, that’s my main criterion for keeping books. I buy more books now that I’m not close to a large library, and then I have the challenge of not assembling a large library of my own.

  9. I don’t typically sell my books, although occasionally I’ll sell a few to Powell’s. Mostly, I either donate them — to the library book sale, or to Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners — or list them on PaperbackSwap. The second option is, uh, less virtuous than the first option, as it just means that I’m later able to acquire more books. But hopefully better ones! Ones I’ll want to keep forever!

  10. I have a mixture of outlets – a charity shop, my local library and very occasionally a book crossing zone in a cafe. I have done very little of the last one though this year because it involves trekking into the city laden with a heavy bag and having to record each book on the website with a tracking number. A bit too much effort unfortunately….i tried a long time ago to sell books but had no real interest

  11. Generally once I’ve finished a book I keep it if I know I will want to re-read – if not it gets put aside to either be passed on someone I think will enjoy it or to go to charity.

    • I wish I had more readers to pass books on to. I thought about setting up some kind of blogger exchange but never got around to it.

  12. We are going to be doing a major book purge later this year, so this article is very timely. I want to make a list of all the available outlets for our unwanted books – I’ve recently discovered that our local library will take ‘preloved’ books in very good condition…

  13. I’ve started an intermittent book purge, using some of the same strategies you are using. Especially the “disposal” part — our local used bookstore doesn’t take some categories, but anything I think they might want I take there first. The rest goes to the library for their bookstore. (They used to run a huge sale twice a year, but now they’re just going to have a store at the annex. Plus every branch has a few shelves of used books in really good condition for sale.) I am considering selling a few high-priced books on Amazon, though.

  14. I rarely get rid of books, but I have a small bag for ones I didn’t like and every year or so we take them to a local store called Half-Price Books and get a little credit so we can buy more used books there.

  15. My mom is a ‘Friends of the Library’ lady and she volunteers in the used book area of her library. She is amazed each month by how much money they take in from people buying the donated books. I am always happy to bring my books there, because it is nice to know other people are going to read them!

  16. Deciding which books to let go is always tricky! But after that, I have different ways of parting with them. A few I pass on to friends – I have a little pile in our spare bedroom that’s there for visitors to read and take with them. Detective novels and ‘easy’ reads I donate to the local charity shop here in Belgium; more complicated books which would be beyond most Belgian readers I take back with me to Britain and donate to a local charity shop there. I like my books to go to the best possible homes! 🙂 And I like donating because it makes me feel generous.

    • Books want to be read, that’s why I try to pass on those that will probably sit unread in my house.

      • Books want to be read – so true! That is their purpose. But also, I am greedy and keep too many. So I struggle.

  17. I like to donate to my local library and I also like to host a giveaway on my blog for those books I’m ready to give away or unload. Those are the ways I unload books I’ve read or no longer plan on reading.

  18. I do just about the same thing with the books I want to get rid of! First I take them round to my three favourite used book shops, then whatever’s left gets donated to a charitable book sale (usually one that’s a fundraiser for the prison library association). I don’t buy a lot of books so this process happens infrequently – mostly I do it with books from my family.

    • The books have really piled up since I started blogging. I used to not acquire so many either.

  19. I usually donate any books I don’t see myself rereading. I bring them to the library to donate. I know my library has been struggling with funding since the recession, so it’s a good way to give back to the community.

  20. I just had a huge number (13 boxes) of books to move on. We’d had a giveaway at my school, and some teachers brought down class sets of books from the 70s and 80s that, unsurprisingly, no students wanted. Other books were pretty good, but for whatever reason just didn’t get taken.

    My process went like this:
    * bring books into Powell’s and see what they’d give me store credit for ($18, which was kind of depressing).
    *bring many of the remaining books to a local paperback bookstore. They took more books, but you can only use their credit towards half of your purchase, so you end up paying some too.
    *bring remaining books in good condition to the library for their semi annual book sale
    *bring remaining books not in good condition to the recycling depot in the pouring rain
    *realize I couldn’t recycle the hardbacks at this location, so
    *take the leftovers to Goodwill
    *find a few books floating around my car three days later
    *take them to the closest Little Free Library

    If you go to the Little Free Library website, they’ll be able to tell you where your closest ones are!

    • Lo and behold, there is a LFL listed near me. I just never noticed it. I will check it out!

  21. I typically bring books to my book club first and the donate whatever I have left. I’ve gotten very unsentimental about books and giveaway almost all the books I own after I’ve read them. Only my very favorites get to stay on my shelves and even then, some of them will be removed if they feel more forgettable after some time has passed.

    • Weeding the shelves is a constant process. I actually find it rewarding to keep thinking about which really are my favorite books.

  22. I donate books to our library sale and have left some in the train station as well (they have a book exchange there). I just found out that there’s a used bookstore nearby, so I’ll probably bring some books there as well.

  23. I bring them to a charity shelf, either at the local church, at the local supermarket or at my GP. They all have shelves where you can put your books down and in return pick new books up. I am too lazy to try and sell them, and I used to participate in BookCrossing but am apparently also too lazy for that. I usually donate paperbacks I know I don’t want to read again or that were secondhand to begin with and keep the hardbacks and the books I know I’ll read again.