Where to Donate Used Books

I was born in the 80s and so I grew up reading physical books. There's something about holding a book, flipping through the pages, smelling the paper – you really can't beat it.

But from time to time, you look at your collection of books and realize that it needs to be pared down a little bit.

If you have sets of books, especially paperbacks, you can sell them on eBay for a few dollars each. When I was looking for some lightweight fiction to read before bed, I bought all the books in the Jack Reacher series for like $50.

If the books aren't part of a set but are particularly sought after, you could sell them on eBay or Amazon too.

But for most books, the best option is to donate those books to a good cause.

Here are the best places to donate your used books to have the maximum impact:

Where to Donate Books Near You

Books can be heavy so donating them to a location nearby can save on shipping and have a great impact in your local community.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it's important to double-check the status of these locations because some may not be open or have modified hours.

Goodwill Industries

Goodwill was the first place that came to mind because oftentimes when I look for used books on Amazon, the book is being shipped from a Goodwill store in the United States. Goodwill is a fantastic organization to support, especially with unemployment extremely high during the Coronavirus pandemic, because they support job training and placement programs to help people out of work. Use their store locator to find a Goodwill near you.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is a faith-based organization that helps their respective local communities with everything from supporting homeless shelters to food pantries to veteran services and help for domestic abuse. You can see a list of what they do to see if this is an organization you wish to support. They will take books of any kind – paperback or hardcover – and your donations go to support these programs. Use their store locator to find a Salvation Army location near you.

Your Local Library

If you don't live near a Goodwill or Salvation Army location, but you do live near a library – consider donating your books to the library. Find your local library and see what they take, the procedure for donating, and what they do with it. In most cases, the library will sell the materials and use the funds to pay for other library services.

Always check first before you show up with books – sometimes libraries are swamped with book donations and can't handle more.

For example, our local library system, the Howard County Library System accepts:

  • Hardcover Fiction and Non-fiction books
  • College Textbooks published within last ten years
  • Music CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray Discs*
  • Books on CD
  • Video Games
  • Playaways
  • Children’s Books
  • Antiquarian, Rare and Collectible Books (e.g. Special Collections)
  • World Language books in Western script
  • Mass Market Paperbacks
  • Trade Paperbacks

Then they sell the books on Better World Books and the proceeds from the sale support the Friends of Howard County Library System.

Better World Books

If your local library doesn't accept donations, you can go directly to Better World Books and look for a dropbox to leave your books. BWB will sell your book and use the proceeds to support literacy and education initiatives.

If you can't find one, you can always mail them your books too – the addresses are on the store locator and they have locations in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Little Free Library

Have you seen these small little houses on a 4×4 filled with books before? They're known as a Little Free Library and they're free book exchanges that are set up by regular members of your community. We have several in our area and they're always full of an eclectic collection of books. The organization that started the idea is a nonprofit that just aims to facilitate the exchange of books and make them more accessible to people. The small libraries are unlocked and you can take a book and/or leave some books.

Whenever we've seen one, it's been a mix of books for all ages – young and old. They have a Little Free Library locator but it didn't seem to work when I used it but Google Maps seems to return a somewhat reliable list when you search for “Little Free Library.” Google Maps shows a list of them but doesn't include every single one we know about in our area.

Where to Donate Books by Mail

If you are willing to pay for shipping to mail your books, some charities accept books by mail. I recommend using one of the USPS's flat rate shipping boxes because you with those boxes you pay a flat rate regardless of weight… and books can get heavy!

With many of these organizations, they ship their books out to other places and for them, shipping is a great expense. Many ask that you donate money as well as the books to maximize your impact.

Books For Africa

Books For Africa is an organization that seeks to facilitate education in Africa by sending educational materials to reduce the cost of education. “Books For Africa supplies sea containers of books to rural school libraries, orphanages, adult literacy programs, and community resource centers. Books For Africa strives to help create a culture of literacy and provide the tools of empowerment to the next generation of parents, teachers, and leaders in Africa.”

If you have textbooks or other education-related materials, this is the best organization to send them too and you can mail them to their warehouse in Atlanta:
BOOKS FOR AFRICA WAREHOUSE – ATLANTA
3655 Atlanta Industrial Drive, Bldg. 250
Atlanta, GA 30331

If you wish to make a cash contribution, that goes to a separate address – Books For Africa, 370 Selby Ave., Ste. 305, St. Paul, MN 55102, USA.

Books to Prisoners

They are currently closed due to Covid-19 but Books to Prisoners, based out of Seattle, is an organization that seeks to “foster a love of reading behind bars, encourage the pursuit of knowledge and self-empowerment, and break the cycle of recidivism.” They receive and respond to book requests each month and are always looking for “dictionaries, thesauruses, African American history and fiction, Native American studies, legal materials, GED materials, and foreign language learning materials (particularly Spanish). Other common requests include genre fiction such as westerns and horror, vocational-technical manuals, politics, anthropology, art and drawing books (including blank notebooks), and books on paranormal phenomena.”

If you have any of those and wish to donate them, please read this page of instructions first. They are currently closed for Covid-19 so don't send anything yet.

If you live on the East Coast, NYC Books Through Bars may be a cheaper shipping alternative. It's an organization with a similar mission.

Donating Tips

If you do end up donating your books, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Get a receipt of your donation. If you itemize your tax deductions, you will be able to claim the value of your books as a charitable donation. This donation guide from the Salvation Army puts the value of a hardcover book at $1-$3 and the value of a paperback at $1-$2. When you make that donation, you want to get a receipt so you have proof of what you donated.

Only donate books in good condition. Many organizations make use of your books by re-selling them so if they are not in good to great condition, they are forced to throw them out or recycle them. Unfortunately, this just wastes their time and yours. If you have a book that's in so-so condition, good enough to read but not good enough to sell, consider putting it in a Free Library (where another reader can enjoy them).

Donating your books is a great way to reduce clutter, give new life to your books, and keep them out of the recycler or landfill!

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

Are You Ready to Retire? Probably Not

Over the past five years, there's been an explosion of "early retirement" headlines, as everyone rushes to share the latest about that person or couple in their 30's who retired with a high net worth. But is the freedom of an early retirement all it's cracked up to be, and when the time comes, will you even be ready?

HealthyWage Review: Get Paid to Lose Weight

HealthyWage allows you to place a bet that you will lose a certain amount of weight over a set time frame. You choose the parameters of the challenge and then place your bet. If you win, you'll get your money back plus some.

Should Kids Get An Allowance?

Whether or not you give your kids an allowance will depend on several factors, such as your family values, budget, and the child's responsibilities. How much you give will likely depend on age and other household responsibilities. Also, do they need to do chores or do they get the money "just because"? 

About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a thirty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Comment:

Comments

About the comments on this site:

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  1. Shaun says

    Libraries sell to other used books stores besides Better World Books. I can say this with certainty, as I work for a competitor of Better World Books. In fact, almost all of the places you mention – Goodwill, libraries, the Salvation Army, even dollar stores – all will try to sell books you donate first, and, failing that, they are sold in bulk to companies like the one I work for. And books do not have to be only in good condition. Any condition down to fair can be accepted. Whatever we can’t use, we recycle.

    • Jim Wang says

      Yes they definitely do, I listed Better World Books because that’s who Howard County Libraries use.

  2. Holly G says

    Hi Jim!

    Great post! I really like 2nd and Charles used and new book store. There are several locations all over the U.S. https://www.2ndandcharles.com/ They will buy back popular items besides books like dvds, games, CDs and so much more. I have been able to find some great old used books there too. My kids love the kids section with both new and used books. They have regular sales like B1G1 or B1G1 50% off. I have scored some great deals there.

    We also like McKay used book store in Manassas, VA. They also buy back used books and most of the books are used. http://mckayusedbooks.com/

    I have noticed a lot of the local thrift stores and donation centers are not putting out used books for sale like they used to and instead and reselling them to other companies. Which is a bummer. I love looking at used books and also donating them too.

    The library system in my area does regular local book sales to sell all of their donations first and then have on going sales during the year at the library. None of the donated books will enter the library system now. Which is a bummer. They will only accept new books purchased by Amazon.

    To limit my books I have limited space for my own library so we regularly donate books. Since our libraries are closed for now we are looking out for some free little libraries in our area.

    Thanks!

    • Jim Wang says

      Great suggestions – I think a local private bookseller will be able to get you a little bit of cash for used books. It’s also nice to support a local merchant.

      I think a lot of them go online because you can see more demand and get slightly more for those books. I understand it.

As Seen In: