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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 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
- 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.
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!