What to Do with Books You Don’t Want Anymore

Posted January 23, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 42 Comments

what to do with books you dont want

Are you the type of reader who likes to clean out your shelves periodically? I definitely am. I LOVE having books and I want to have a library in my house someday, so I don’t mind owning tons of books. But I figure there’s no point in having books I read and didn’t like. I tend to buy my books cheap, so I don’t mind getting rid of books too much, but sometimes I don’t know what I want to DO with those books. And sometimes it is hard to let go of a book, even if I disliked it from the very beginning. In the end, though, I want books I love on my shelves, and getting rid of books I dislike or won’t read again makes room for the books I will love.

Back in March I did a feature on a few book trading programs. What I really wanted to do was to use this post to compile a list of ways you can trade, exchange, donate, or gift books in every possible way. This was inspired by a post on  Good Books and Wine that April wrote about culling your books. I wanted to make a list of all the things you can do with the books you culled! I’m sure I’ll miss some, no matter how much I try to make this *the* definitive list, so feel free to post suggestions in the comments.


So if you’re not looking to clear out books because of shelf space, necessarily, but instead are just getting rid of books you don’t want or disliked, a trading or swapping program may be the best way since you get to take a book off your shelf and then (hopefully)  put a new great book on your shelf.

1. YA Book Exchange


I featured YA Book Exchange before, but I decided it was worth featuring again. They only take YA titles & select MG and NA titles, so the book you’re looking to trade might not fit, but otherwise it’s a great directory. I really love the way the system for YA Book Exchange is set up. If you’re interested in listing books for trade, you can fill out a simple form, link to a wish list, and they’ll update the site with the information. Then, if someone is interested in your book, they’ll contact you directly and you can negotiate a trade.

My Experience: I’ve had a pretty great experience with YA Book Exchange. I’ve done several exchanges, and I’ve really only had a problem with one(which was on my end and was the post office’s fault–a book got lost, but we got it taken care of in the end). Other than that, it’s been really great. You do need to keep the site updated, though, if a trade you’ve posted is claimed, which can be hard to remember sometimes. I’ve had to turn trades down because I forgot to send that quick updating the directory email. If you don’t want to list books, you can still browse through the available ones.

2. Paperback Swap

paperback swap

I found out about paperback swap actually through the comments on the last post I did on book trading programs, and I’ve since signed up. Instead of trading, it works like this:

 Step One. When you sign up, you list ten books you’re willing to send and you get two credits(basically the site currency) for books. It’s okay if you don’t have ten–I only had five when I signed up, so I got once credit instead of two, which was fine.
Step Two. If someone’s interested in a book you have listed, you can accept or decline the request to send the book. If you accept, you can print off Paperback swap paper at home, wrap the book, and send on it’s way. You get a credit for sending once the book is received.
 Step Three. You make your own wish list and when a title becomes available, if you have enough credits, the system automatically ask the book owner if they are willing to send the book to you.

My experience: I don’t have a lot of experience with this yet, but I like what I’ve seen. I just sent my first book off, so as soon as it arrives my account should receive a credit. The waiting list for some titles are incredibly long, though, so be aware if you’re the type to want instant gratification.

3. BookMooch


I haven’t used BookMooch so far, but it seems fairly similar to paperback swap. You list books, receive points for mailing, and requests books from others. I will say that while I know people who have used BookMooch, I have to admit that paperback swap appeals to me a lot more. If you’re used it before, feel free to tell us more about how it works in the comments.

4. Informal Trades

These sites are great, but you can always just trade informally. I’ve seen this work before. You can do it on your blog, twitter, etc. Just post a list or picture of books you’re willing to trade and link to a wish list, and see if anyone offers. I haven’t actually done an informal trade myself(I just prefer to go through something like YA Book Exchange, though I’m not opposed to these informal trades), but I’ve seen other people do it with great success.


If you’re not interested in trading your books, but just want to get rid of some, there are multiple ways to donate or to give them away. When making this list, I tried really hard to think outside the standard ones we all know(though I’ll include those as well), and to see how many ways I could think of to donate or give books.

1. Giveaway

Obviously, you can do a giveaway. If you have a blog, that’s a pretty easy platform to do one on, but you could also do one on twitter, Facebook. etc.

2. Donate to the public library

I know not every library takes donations, but there’s no harm in asking, right? My library doesn’t take donations for books to place on the shelf but they do take donations for the friend of the library book sale that takes place every November. I love donating my books to this because I know the money made off the books will go right into the public library, which is a system I use a lot.

3. Donate to a classroom library

If you have the ability to do so, you can donate books to a teacher’s classroom library. Both the school libraries & public libraries can’t take ARCs, but if you know a teacher who has some sort of unofficial classroom collection, they may be able to take them. It’s a win for everyone–you can get rid of books you don’t want, and the students in the classrooms will get more access to reading material.

4. Free Book Tables & Little Free Libraries

This will depend on your location, but if you know of a place that offers a free book table, you can always drop them off there. I know my hometown library used to have a table like this. If you live by a college, I can almost guarantee that they’ll have a free book table or multiple free book tables. Just drop your books off and wait for others to pick them up.

Your community might also have a little free library in the area. If you’re not familiar with little free library, here’s their introductory paragraph from their website:

It’s a “take a book, return a book” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. You can, too!

I really love this concept. I’ve never seen one in action, but I believe I remember reading a newspaper article about one in my area I might have to check out. There’s a map on their website that shows you where all the different little free libraries are located, so you can see if there’s one in your area.

5. Set it Free via Bookcrossing

I haven’t used bookcrossing, but it seems fairly simple. It’s a way of releasing a book into the wild–you print off a label on the site, stick it on the book, and then leave it in an area like a coffee shop or somewhere that gets a decent amount of traffic. You could do this without book crossing, of course, but the cool thing about bookcrossing (from what I understand) is that you’re able to track and see where the book goes as it continues along it’s path.

6. Donate it to a charity

This will depend widely on where you live, but I can almost guarantee that there’s some charity that would gladly take your books. If there’s a shop like Goodwill or Salvation Army nearby, they’ll take books, but you can also think outside the box: Are there any non-profits in your area that focus on literacy? If you’re looking to get rid of children and YA books, think of any charities or non-profits that you know work with children. Don’t be afraid to ask them even if they don’t focus on literacy necessarily.

7. Donate it to ARCcycling


ARCcycling is a program where you can donate books(ARCs and finished copies), and other reviewers can request them. This system is really only for reviewers, bloggers, teachers, etc. –the goal is to make review books more accessible to people–so it’s not for everyone, but it’s a great program if you’re looking to get rid of some newer titles. Since there are only a few places that take ARCs, this might be a good option.

8. Donate to Little Bloggers, Big Ambitions

This is really only for ARCs, but since I’m trying to make this list as comprehensive as possible, I thought I’d include it anyway. Little Bloggers, Big Ambitions is run by Cuddlebuggery, and is a program in which you can donate unreleased ARCs that are given to newer/small bloggers. The full rundown of the program is on the webpage.

9. Give to a friend or relative

If you’re lucky enough to have friends or relatives who love books, go ahead and give them one! I have a friend who I sometimes give books too because I know we have similar taste. Also, if you feel up to paying for shipping, you can also give to a blogger or reader you’re interacted with. I know one of my favorite memories of blogging was when I realized I had an extra copy of a book I found on a friend’s wishlist and was able to send it to her. I got a book out of my space, she got a book she wanted, and everyone was happy.

ways to sell

You can always try to sell your books(though this will depend greatly upon the condition of the original book, and of course, ARCs are not to be sold).

1. Your traditional online selling sites

You can always open up an Amazon or Ebay store and try to sell books through there. I haven’t tried either of these, so I’m not sure how great they are. I do remember I was going to try and sell some of my old college textbooks through amazon and decided it wasn’t worth it in the end. For some books, however, you can trade in directly to Amazon, which is a lot less stressful in my opinion, though you’ll probably get less for the books.

2. Sell to used bookstores

This is one I hardly ever see anyone suggest, and I don’t know why. If there’s a used book store in your area, they have to get their used books from somewhere. Many will buy your books from you and give you store credit(sometimes I’ve seen up to 50% of sticker price for a book in great condition), or cash(though they’ll most likely give you less cash than what you would have earned with store credit). There’s a few used bookstores in my area, and I know one only takes books that are in great condition, while the other takes books in all sort of conditions. Also, if there’s a Hastings entertainment store in your area, they also have a book buying program.

ways to create

Sometimes you’re not getting rid of books because you don’t want them, but because they have simple reached the end of their bookish life. It’s always a sad day when that happens, and I should know, because I recently recycled my collection of Sherlock Holmes stories. The spine was bent, pages were falling out, and it was a mess all around. I can handle a book with a LOT of shelf wear, but I finally had to admit that this particular copy had reached unreadable levels. I recycled it, but I took to twitter and asked for suggestions of more creative ways to handle books that are no longer readable.

1. Recycle

Okay, this is probably the most boring way, but at least something new will get to come out of that book’s life. In a way, it’s like the story will be resurrected through notebooks and new books and all sorts of things we make with recycled paper. It’s not ideal, but it sure beats the book going off to decay in a landfill.

2. Make Bookish Crafts

I started to list every single suggestion I could find but then this post would have been a mile long. Pinterest is a perfect place to find tons of bookish art and crafts. On a single search, I found a bookish picture frame, a kindle cover for a old hardcover, and book flowers(I plan on doing this on one day!). You could make cards, frames, etc. I am not the most crafty person, but I can think that almost any craft you would be able to use book pages to spice it up if you wanted!


Do you have any more ideas on what you can do with old books? As you might be able to tell, I have TONS of ideas how you can give away or donate books, but as not the most crafty person, it’s hard to think of suggestions of ways to create with old books. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments or if you got any ideas from one of these.




42 responses to “What to Do with Books You Don’t Want Anymore

  1. Wow, this is a great post!! Somebody else may have already mentioned it in the comments, but there’s also that new BookBlogging.net site that’s run by Ashley from Nose Graze, and she just started the new book trading program on there that seems pretty cool. I’ve done ARCycling before, but not any of the other ones. All of the books that I’ve read and decided I don’t want to keep anymore get taken to my local used bookstore where I get credit for them. And any they don’t want, I donate at my local “donate books” bin that you sometimes see in like grocery store parking lots or wherever. But this is such a great resource post! I’m definitely going to post this in my weekly wrap-up 🙂

  2. These are some great suggestions here and I can’t wait to look into a few of them! However, as a school librarian, I do have to contradict what you said about donating ARCs to schools. Unfortunately, we CAN NOT add ARCs to our collections. Really, no libraries are supposed to – I went to a panel discussing this specifically at ALA last year.

    Publishers send ARCs out into the world as previews, not as final copies. They are not manufactured in a way that is meant to last long (like in a school library where they need to potentially survive for hundreds of checkouts), nor are they meant to be a substitute for buying the book – if a school doesn’t buy the book but adds the ARC which was acquired for free, that author is not losing out on money from that sale.

    ALSO a huge issue I’ve seen myself and heard of multiple times is that what is in the ARC is not the same as what makes the final printing. There can be typos, but it’s more than that. I’ve seen it where the order of scenes changes, characters are dropped, even the book gets a totally different ending. When you add a book to a library’s collection, a contract is formed between the lender and the borrower that this is the ‘real’ book. I’ve heard of students checking out ARCs that shouldn’t be there, then getting in trouble in class or on assignments because what they read is different from the final copy.

    So please, if you have used BOOKS, us school librarians will be happy to take them. But as for ARCs, do as the publishers request – pass them around, and if you can’t find someone to take it, recycle it or make a craft out of it 🙂

    • stormydawnc

      Oh, I should reword that. I definitely know the *actual* libraries aren’t suppose to have ARCs(I’ve had to ask my public library to take ARCs off the shelf before). I was thinking specifically of classroom libraries–collections of books some teachers keep in their classrooms. I know some of mine did, the type of collections that are more unofficial, and they were never for assignments or anything, just available reading material(my teachers generally gave them away).

      • Oh! Yes please donate them to classroom libraries! I do that all the time! A good friend of mine has an unofficial one like you are describing and always warns her kids that ARCs mean things might be different so they should use them for fun reading, not reports. So yeah, all hail classroom collections! 🙂

        • stormydawnc

          Oh good! I was pretty sure that was okay, but your comment made me worry. I’ll edit the post–I didn’t think how that could be unclear, but I’ll change the wording!

  3. I love that you compiled this list!!! Lately I’ve just been giving my books away 🙂 I actually put a few up on ebay in lots because they’re my older mysteries that none of my YA friends want but that’s really just to get rid of them and not really to make money or anything, ya know?

    • stormydawnc

      I have a friend I like to give books away too, and then I keep a giveaway pile in my room! I’d definitely suggest paperback swap for those mysteries, if you were interested in getting books in return! I’ve gotten two books from there this week and I’ve come to really like their system!

  4. I love the idea of using old ARCs to create, especially because I have some that are years old and it’s kind of unfair to the author to release those into the wild when they’ve been on sale for years. Also, ARCs aren’t made to hold up over time.

    Anyways, great post! Lots of awesome ideas here! Thanks for linking me 🙂

  5. This is a wonderful list. I didn’t even know about most of this. I’m not sure I can try out most of them though because shipping to and from my country can be quite expensive for some. I do give away those books that I don’t want anymore though. But it takes time because I need to save up to pay for the shipping costs. I don’t really raffle them off but offer them to people who actually want them. Or maybe even just people who are interested.

    • stormydawnc

      Yeah, some of them definitely don’t work with international shipping. It’s always good when you can find people you KNOW want the books you don’t want. I have a friend I give a lot of old books too first, and then giveaway or trade the ones left over.

  6. I generally donate to my library, classroom libraries, and charities. I’d be more open to giveaways, except that I’m poor enough that the costs of shipping would matter to me. 😉

    One thing I’d like to say about donating to teachers, though: be careful of the content. Some schools have restrictions on what types of materials they would like to be available to students. (Example: If a teacher is at a Catholic school, they may not want a book with cursing.) Just be sure to be upfront with teachers when donating. Let them know if there’s anything questionable (cursing, sexual content, controversial issues, etc.) or let them know the book is “clean.” Or, tell them you haven’t read the book, and they might want to go through it themselves before putting it in their classroom.

    • stormydawnc

      That’s a good point! I’ve never found a teacher to donate books too, but I know some people do(which is why I included it). Now that I have teacher friends, though, I should probably get in the habit of at least asking them if they’d like any books.

  7. Cee

    So many things I can do with books! Thank you for this!

    I really want to clean out my shelves and get rid of books I don’t want anymore, but it’s hard! Even though I don’t like some of the books, I can’t help but think about the ~memories of it (like when I got it, the things we went through). Lol. I think I get separation anxiety.

    I have yet to donate to my library. I really should do that.

    • stormydawnc

      I used to be like that with my books, but it became SUCH A PROBLEM. Like, a real, problem books threatening to overtake every inch of my room. So I had to learn. I love having lots of books, but I only want to keep books around that I *really* want, so I’ve definitely learned to part with books I don’t really like or love.

  8. These are such great ideas! Thank you so much for this! I did a major cleaning of my bookshelves a couple years ago so I don’t think I need to do one for a while but these will for sure come in handy when that day arrives. I tried donating them to a library but they usually don’t accept the books even if they are in pretty good condition so I’ve donated the better copies to a place I’ve found that collects children’s books and gives them out for free as a way to encourage reading. Then for the more banged up novels, I usually just leave them outside for people to pick up if they want to. Bookcrossing sounds like a really cool way though! I’m not really sure how the concept goes yet but I just feel it would be so cool to be a part of!

    • stormydawnc

      I try to go through my bookshelves once a year just to make sure I want everything. Some years I barely take anything off, but I think it’s a good exercise to not clutter things so much. I love the idea of leaving books for people to find!

  9. I actually just recently did a complete cleaning of my room, and I came out with two giant stacks of books that I read as a kid that I didn’t want anymore. They were in pretty good condition, but I just wasn’t interested in them anymore. I decided to take them to my local library…my goodness, I’ve never seen those librarians look happier. (Normally they’re in bad moods, which is why I don’t go to the library as often as I’d like to. Haha.) It was definitely a good feeling, though.

    • stormydawnc

      Haha, I love taking books to places like that! I know my library only takes donation for the friends of the library sale, so I don’t take a ton of books there(though some), but I do definitely enjoy it!

  10. This is such a great post! I really, really need to make use of one of these. As of right now I have 5 enormous overflowing bookshelves, I huge shelf that used to be for board games and scrapbooks but has gradually turned into another bookshelf, probably at least a dozen large boxes of books that don’t fit on the shelves, and an ever-expanding Amazon wish list of several hundred books I desperately want. (Yes, I have a problem.)

    I don’t know why but it is SO HARD for me to get rid of books! Even books that I just didn’t love. Books I didn’t bother to finish. Or books that I used to love, but don’t really anymore and know that I will never read again. There are so many books that I can’t wait to get my hands on, there is just never going to come a day when I say to myself, you know what I should read today, those old books by _____ that I used to love but haven’t picked up in 5 or 10 years. But when I think about cleaning them out I swear I get anxiety!

    Maybe if I do one of these swaps, getting rid of books would be less painful. Because every book I get via trade is one I don’t have to spend my few dollars on!

    • stormydawnc

      It used to be REALLY REALLY hard for me to get rid of books too. I’ve gotten better over the years, because I don’t like having things around that I don’t like. I started that trend a few years ago, and it’s really helped me(in all aspects of life–not just books!). And that’s partially why I like trade programs too. I don’t get rid of the *number* of books. . . I just shift around what books I actually have.

      • That’s a really good mindset to have… I think I need to adopt a similar policy. Especially as I’m going to a big book sale this weekend and Monday is my birthday so all around there will be a lot of new books in my near future!

  11. Absolutely love this post! 😀 These are really great ideas. I don’t really participate in book trading because shipping stuff to/from where I am costs A LOT. Especially when compared to say shipping within to US or from US to Canada. This is why I end up donating my books. Back when I lived at home (in another country), I would send it off to my relatives where all my donated stuff goes. Now, I send them off to secondhand stores or charity shops. I don’t think I’ve found one that accepts books for a literacy programme, but I want to look harder now! 🙂

    • stormydawnc

      Yeah, I can see where it would be tough with shipping costs. It’s good you’ve found charity shops you can use, though! It took me awhile to find any in my neighborhood.

  12. This is definitely a timely post for me. I just pulled out a stack of books that I need to donate to the library.

    I also have some older ARCs that I might use for craft projects.

    • stormydawnc

      Hope some of these are useful! And older ARCs would be good for craft projects, since the binding doesn’t hold up as well and you can typically only get a few reads out of them anyway.

  13. This is such a great informative post! I love keeping all of my books but recently I’ve found a $1 used book store so I don’t feel so bad giving some away knowing I can replenish my collection for cheap hah! I might have to sift through what I have just so I can swap through one of these sites and get some books I need! 🙂

    • stormydawnc

      A $1 used book store? WHOA that is a seriously good deal. There’s some pretty good stores like that around here but they’re still a *little* more expensive than that!

      • Yeah! It’s my heaven! I always walk out spending at least $10, but that’s TEN books! My collection has blown up since discovering this store! 🙂 If you’re ever in Southern California, they have 3 different locations I think, all called One Dollar Book Store. 🙂

  14. Great post! This is really helpful and I didn’t know about most of these trading and recycling systems. This will be great for future reference! My bookshelf is getting cluttered *coughs* full.

    • stormydawnc

      Yeah, I really love the trading & swapping programs! It’s great to get some new books on your shelves while also dusting off the ones you *don’t* want to keep.

  15. I SO want to do the bookish flowers one but then I think about that video of Lauren Conrad mutilating the Lemony Snicket books to make a freakin’ box and then I remind myself that you shouldn’t hurt books. Plus, it would be cool to do bookish decor using pages from a favorite so that then when you saw it, you’d see lines from Pride and Prejudice and not something random or boring. But then you’d have to cut up a favorite book and Jane Austen might like, HAUNT you or something.

    Clearly I have been over-thinking this. Welcome to my mind.

    • stormydawnc

      Well, I have not seen that video. But that’s why I put a disclaimer–I only support mutilation of books if books are already unreadable. Like, that volume of Sherlock Holmes that was seriously unreadable I recycled? I kinda wished I had made a bookish craft with that.

      But yes, I agree. And Jane Austen is a ghost I would not want to have to face.

  16. This is really helpful for me as I should start getting rid of some of the books on my shelves soon, as I don’t have enough space anymore. I have kept so many books, I have a lot from years ago I will never read again, so they will go first. But I had no idea what to with them. I’m definitely going to look into the YA book exchange, but I should also research if I can donate to some local charity. I do know I’m definitely not keeping any books to make any bookish crafts, because I am one of the least crafty persons. A lot of people in my family are very crafty and I”m always the odd one out! But I think bookish crafts are really awesome IF you are crafty.

    • stormydawnc

      I’ve had to go through books recently too! It’s not even an issue of space, since I received a really large book shelf for Christmas, but just knowing that I have books on my shelves that I WANT. If I read a book and didn’t care for it, there’s really no reason to keep it. I’ve used the YA Book Exchange a lot and had pretty good experiences.

      I’m not super crafty either, though I like to think I am!

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