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Where to Donate Books

Updated on November 28, 2012

If you don't know where to donate books, this article may provide a few ideas for you. It's not particularly difficult to find someone willing to take something for free, but when it comes to books, booklovers, and the diffusion of knowledge and entertainment, we often have a deeper interest in where our former possessions end up. In the hierarchy of "Giving", only kittens, puppies, and kidneys are held closer to the average human's heart than a good book.

Why you should Donate Books

  • You will be spreading knowledge (even if the books aren't exactly scholarly, almost anything is better than TV)
  • You will be providing a revenue stream to worthy causes
  • You will feel good about helping others
  • You will reduce the clutter of your life
  • You will have a potential tax deduction
  • And lastly, you will give books what they desire. Books want to be read. If left on a shelf too long, they plot rebellion and high jinx.

Where to Donate Books

  • Local Library - This is the obvious and sometimes best place to donate a book. It's unlikely that your book will go onto the shelf, but most libraries have a "Friends of the Library" program that holds monthly, semi-annual, or annual book sales. The revenue that your books produce will be used as funding for the library.
  • Prison - While there will be a lot of restrictions on both content and actual book type (hardbacks may not be permitted), donating to a prison will put books directly into prisoners hands. Escapism will take on another level of meaning.
  • Homeless Shelters - There is a warmth that a book can provide that no blanket, no hot meal can match.
  • Thrift Stores - Many thrift stores are affiliated with churches, charities, and other philanthropic organizations. When you call Goodwill, your items usually end up in a store (or these days on eBay).
  • Craigslist - You'll have to be careful here. I live in an area where Craigslist is used frequently. After placing a "Free Futon - Leg missing - Large gash in fabric" Ad and receiving a dozen phone calls in the span of twenty minutes, you might want to put a few up-front restrictions on who may inquire about the lot. And be sure to remove the ad ASAP once you've found a taker.
  • Church/School Fundraisers - Much like the Friends of the Library sales, these institutions are often happy to accept donations of a wide variety of items. You'll need to do a bit more upfront legwork to inquire on what they may need. Be prepared to have them not accept the entire lot.
  • Neighbors/Friends/Family - Be cautious here. If you have a packrat in the family, you may see them again and again for the rest of your life. (And I don't mean the books)
  • Local/National/International Charities - There are all sorts of programs that are beyond the breadth of this article that either specialize in book collection and distribution, or would be more than happy to receive a donation of books. Especially if you have a collection of niche books you are looking to get rid of, give thought to who might best use them and do some research online about where to donate books.

What Condition should the books be in?

  • It depends. A little common sense is probably the best guide here. If your books are moldy or gross in any of the myriad ways a book can lose its religion, you may want to consider them kindling for the winter fireplace. That isn't to say that all worn books ought to be thrown away. Many individuals out there would continue to read as long as they can find words to read -- no matter what condition the book itself is in. It's just that the middlemen in the book world often don't have the time to deal with books in these conditions, and in the end you'd just be costing them money instead of helping them make money. Here's a quick guide:
  1. Would I be embarrassed if someone pulled this book off the shelf in my living room? If no, then donate anywhere. If yes, then answer the next question.
  2. Would I be embarrassed if someone pulled this book off the shelf in my basement? If no, then donate to a thrift-store or equivalent. If yes, then answer the next question.
  3. Has my dog chewed on this book? If yes or no, it might be time to put the old girl down. (the book, not the dog)

There are no strict rules with regard to condition. Just remember that if you are intending to be charitable, make sure that your charitable donation has some sort of inherent value.

Alternative to Donating Books

  • Sell them. Ebay, Amazon, Craigslist, Flea Markets, Yard Sales, Old-fashioned Rodeos (maybe?). And if you are feeling charitable after the experience, donate the money you made knowing that those dollars represent your books.

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