Sunday, February 19, 2012

what to do with superfluous books

It would not be hyperbolic to say there is nothing I love more than a good book-- Nothing.  So if you are anything like me, you will routinely find yourself swimming in an overabundance of books.  It is my goal to keep as few things as possible (for example, at present, I have a mere 248 books deemed worth keeping.)  What to do with those books you've finished and feel that you can carry on without?  The obvious answer is to return them to the library-- but for books you have purchased or otherwise acquired, what are your options for putting them back into circulation?  These are my strategies for releasing a book back into the wild.

1.  Send to a friend or family member you think might enjoy it.  I did this recently for a friend who was sick and certainly in need of a good diversion, and I knew the book was something she would enjoy even more than I did.  Your best bet is probably to ship it "media mail" at the post office; this normally amounts to 2-3 dollars.  No need to buy a fancy padded envelope, which would up your cost by more than a dollar; just wrap it up with thick paper and tape. 

2.  Trade it online.  Two of my favorite swapping sites are and  These are fantastic sites that are simple and free to join (two of my favorite things), and I have swapped many a book/DVD using this method.  You list the books you are willing to part with, another member requests it, and when they acknowledge receipt, you get a credit-- and simply pick what you want to be sent to you in return.  Again, inquire at the post office whether media mail or regular post would be cheaper.  

3.  Sell it online.  Before trading a book, I will always quickly check the book's going rate on (simply type in the ISBN), where it is super-simple to sell your books-- I've been doing it for years for extra cash, and to pare down my collection-- and the only downside is that most books do not command a price worth selling for.  Recent bestsellers are your best bet-- for example, I just searched about 20 excess books on Amazon yesterday, and found the only one worth selling (I'd get about $8, which to me is a worthy amount) is Amy Chua's much-discussed Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, but I love it too much to part with it-- even for eight whole dollars!

4.  Trade it in person.  I have two fantastic used book shops locally where I habitually bring in books to trade.  Establishments like this usually give you two options: trade credit-- which generally gives you more value-- or cash, which will usually amount to approximately two dollars and thirty-seven cents, and which I have chosen at times when I have been driving my car on below-empty for two days.  So either can be a good option.  Search for places like this near you!

5.  Donate it.  Donate it to two of my other favorite establishments, Goodwill or Salvation Army (or any thrift store/charity shop.)  If it's more than a few books, get a receipt for your donation, and you can later claim your estimated value of the donation as a tax deduction.

6.  Leave it for another traveler.  Many hostels/bed and breakfasts have libraries made up of books left behind by previous visitors.  They'll probably let you swap books, and you could certainly leave a book you are ready to part with behind for the enjoyment of a traveler to come. I did this recently while traveling in Iceland.  My hostel had a superb and truly eclectic and multilingual "library," spread out over four floors on each stairwell, and I left behind a few books I finished during my trip, along with my new handy Iceland guide book (which I noticed someone immediately adopted), and in return picked up a few swell Agatha Christies I hadn't seen in about ten years (see me enjoying A Caribbean Mystery at Cafe Paris in Reykjavik, above). It doesn't get more win-win than that.

Any ideas I've left out?

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