Finding New Homes for Used Books

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For many organizing clients, books are one of the hardest things to part with. Story books are often associated with childhood memories; they might want to read their favorite novels again someday; and they just never know when they might need to look something up in one of those non-fiction books! You can use your skills as a professional organizer to help them see the benefits of letting go, and to guide them through the decision-making process, but then what? What to do with all those books?!?

After you’ve helped your client identify which books they no longer need or want to keep, there are many different ways you can help those books find a new home.

Trade Books for Money

Sometimes it can be a little easier for a client to part with his or her books if there’s a financial incentive, and there are a number of options, both online and offline. The best method for your client will depend on the type of book. It will generally be much easier to find a buyer for recent popular fiction than for scholarly tomes!

Online classifieds sites such as Kijiji and Craig’s List are a popular choice because they’re free, but because they’re organized geographically, it may be harder to locate a buyer with an interest in a particular subject. In some cases, sites such as Amazon and, which have a broader reach, might be more effective. Fees are paid only when a sale is made, and your client won’t have to deal with phone calls or email inquiries, so it could be worth receiving a lesser amount for their books.

AbeBooks, Powell’s Books and other sites will actually buy books which they can then resell. Your client generally won’t make as much money this way, but it can be worth it if they want to get those books out of their way quickly and spend less time on the selling process. You can use to find out who will pay the best price for any given title.

Those who prefer to sell offline can advertise in newspapers or other publications read by people who are apt to be interested in the books they are offering. If the books are of general interest, a yard sale or garage sale might be a good way to get rid of a lot of books (and other unwanted items), as long as they’re not expecting to receive top dollar for them.

Trade Books for Books

Avid readers might prefer to trade the books they’ve read or decided not to read for new titles. Used bookstores will often give credit for books that are brought in that may be used to purchase other books. This can be a great way to continually stock up on new reading material while clearing out the old.

Bookmooch is an online community for exchanging books with other members. You or your client can sign up for a free membership and type in the titles of the books they’re ready to part with. When someone wants one of those books, they’ll contact you. One-tenth of a point is awarded for each book entered, and a full point for each book given away. You’re responsible for the shipping cost, but additional points are given if you send the book to another country. It costs two points to receive a book. If your client really doesn’t need any more books, their points can be donated to one of several charities.

Trade Books for Warm Fuzzies

Many charities will gratefully accept donations of books and other items which they can sell in their thrift stores to raise funds. Janet Hall’s How And Where To Discard, Donate, Sell, Or Recycle Anything: the Ultimate Directory for Professional Organizers to Help Their Clients includes a list of organizations accepting donations of books and other reading material.

Depending on the type of book, you can also check with local schools, libraries, day care centers, literacy associations, or other organizations, to find out if they can make use of any of the books.

If your client wants to know exactly who is getting their treasured books, they might prefer to list them on Freecycle.

Book Crossing offers another unique option. Readers sign up for a free membership, and before “releasing” a book, they register it on the site, then write the Book Crossing ID (BCID) inside the book. They then leave the book in a public place to be picked up by someone else. The finder is supposed to go to and record a journal entry on that book. I certainly would not recommend this to anyone with a large quantity of books to dispose of! Between the time it would require to enter them into the system, and the creativity of finding unique places to leave them, it wouldn’t really be a practical solution, but it’s such a unique idea that I couldn’t leave it off my list!

Assisting your client with this next step of the “letting go” process can be an optional service for which you charge a fee, thereby increasing your earnings while providing additional support to your client. Or you may prefer to include it as part of your organizing service, to enhance the value your clients receive. Only you know what is best for your clients and your business.

If you’ve disposed of books using any of the above methods, how did you find it? Please share your good and bad experiences, as well as any other recommendations, with other readers.

Photo © Janet Barclay

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Julie Bestry Julie Bestry on June 19, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Great post. No matter how often I write about donating books, there are always more options out there. I’d never even heard of Kijiji!

    One more in the warm fuzzies section: Books for Soldiers, which is billed as care packages for the mind. No matter what one thinks of the political side of international conflagrations, everyone wants to “support the boys (and girls)”, what’s better that books?

    Also, if one is inclined, helps match book owners with readers.

  2. Julie Bestry Julie Bestry on June 19, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Y’know, for Books To Prisoners, I should clarify that it matches BOOKS to prisoners’ requests, not book owners to prisoners. 🙂 It’s not a dating service.

  3. Avatar Tina Chase on June 19, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Great article! A lot of wonderful options.

    We love books, but know to set limits. We’ve given a lot of book away, but sometimes it’s a bit disheartening when you know how much you’ve invested in them. It’s nice to know they’re are several online options, other than having to sell them at rock-bottom yard sale prices (which you just know people are going to try and haggle with anyway).

    Thanks for all the great ideas!

  4. Avatar Tina Chase on June 19, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Good point about printed word vs technology Janet. As much as I love technology, I still like to sit down with a “real” book or magazine and a cup of tea…

  5. Avatar Tina Chase on June 19, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    LOL Julie.

    Book/dating service. Maybe not such a bad idea. Match-making based on people’s reading preferences might have some merit….

  6. Avatar Janet Barclay on June 19, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Julie, thanks for mentioning those. So many programs for sharing books… seems to be telling us that there’s still lots of room for the printed word in today’s high tech world.

  7. Avatar Janet Barclay on June 19, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Tina, I know lots of people are getting Kindles and such things, but there’s nothing like the feel and smell of paper…

    Re: match-making based on reading preferences – at least you would always be able to get double duty from the books you bought – you’d just have to fight over who got to read them first!

  8. Avatar Melodee Patterson on June 20, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    We have a couple of “Half Price Books” stores. I take in a big bag of books that I’ve read, get some cash for them, and spend the money on more books. It’s great!

  9. Avatar Janet Barclay on June 20, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Melodee, it’s a great way to ensure that you always have reading material on hand!

  10. Avatar Jacki Hollywood Brown on July 7, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Being originally from Kingston, Ontario I’ve donated books to the penitentiaries. I’ve also had clients donate paperbacks & other novels to hospices and hospital waiting rooms. Community libraries will also take books and if they don’t use them for lending, they may sell them to raise funds for books that they do need.

    Check with local literacy programs. Often the students are cash-strapped and appreciate donations. Children’s books and books for “young readers” are appreciated by these groups too!

    Children’s books will often be accepted by children aid society and centres to help families in distress.

  11. Avatar Janet Barclay on July 7, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Thanks, Jacki!

    I actually have a book exchange program right where I live – building residents leave the books they’ve finished in the laundry room for others to take. Of course, the building managers probalby wouldn’t take too kindly to leaving boxes of books, especially textbooks and other non-fiction, but it’s a great way to keep recycling paperback novels!

  12. Avatar Adorn on December 15, 2009 at 12:53 am

    I sold some of my books at just a few months back… One of my friend referred this site to me… I found it really user-friendly…They make you go through a simple process of selling books… And also a fair price is paid to you in return….its really far more better than going with the stack of books to a physical bookstore… 🙂

  13. Avatar Janet Barclay on December 15, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Thanks, Adorn! There are so many similar sites out there, that it’s great to get a recommendation from someone who has actually used the service.

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