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Donate books! Tips on where & how

Updated on May 13, 2014

Read it & ready to part with it? Donate your books to the library or another good cause!

For me, one of the highlights of a trip to the local library is peeking into the large storage areas our library created a few years ago for people to use in donating books. It's always an eclectic mix, and it's encouraging that so many are passing on good reads for others' enjoyment. It's eco-friendly, charitable, and keeps book nuts like me out of full-blown hoarder status. (Yes, I still have too many books, but not enough to land me on a reality show about a psychiatric disorder....I think...)

Donating books is easy if you know where to bring them. I'll talk here about a few possibilities.

(photo: Raoul Luoar via photopin cc ~ cropped for shape)

Donate books to the library

Public libraries often accept used books and then hold periodic sales (ours does so on its lower level, with books priced at a buck per), with proceeds helping them acquire new books for their collections. Just call or stop by your library to get the details on how and when they accept book donations. Need contact info? Find your public library.

As with clothing, furniture, and other donations, you can receive a tax benefit for contributions of books. But getting a receipt from the library can be tricky, depending on your library's policies. Ours, for instance, doesn't give out even a generic tax receipt for book donors to fill out themselves (listing books donated & estimated value for each), the way some organizations do for other types of donations. Even if your library does give out receipts, it's likely you'll need to estimate the "fair market value" for each book on your own when you do your taxes. "Fair market value" -- or how much an item could fetch on the free market the day it is contributed -- is the general IRS guideline for tax deductions through donated goods.

The IRS language on donating books is not super helpful: "The value of books is usually determined by selecting comparable sales and adjusting the prices according to the differences between the comparable sales and the item being evaluated. This is difficult to do and, except for a collection of little value, should be done by a specialized appraiser. Within the general category of literary property, there are dealers who specialize in certain areas, such as Americana, foreign imports, Bibles, and scientific books."

I don't know about you, but most of my books fall in the "collection of little value" category -- e.g., they're just ordinary books, not rarities, autographed first editions, or whatnot. So I don't feel the need for an expert to appraise them, if I even knew where to find one. What I do is just err on the low side. If I think a book could fetch $3 at a used bookstore, I'll estimate its value for tax purposes at $1. So I don't get every possible penny out of the deal, but I know I'm not taking advantage of anyone either.

Donate books to the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army accepts donations of books -- along with clothing, toys, furniture, and other household items -- to resell at its thrift stores, with the proceeds funding its rehab and support services for people in need.

The Salvation Army offers a handy goods value guide that pegs donated book value at $0.75 to $3.00 each. They provide receipts you can fill out and will often make home pickups, if you arrange in advance by calling 1-800-SA-TRUCK.

Want more info? Find your nearest Salvation Army.

Donate books to Soldiers Angels

Paperback books often show up on wishlists from deployed men and women. You can make that wish come true by sending your books to Soldiers Angels, a nonprofit dedicated to "providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, veterans and their families."

The caveat here is that your books need to be in top shape. Soldiers Angels accepts only new or like-new book donations.

You'll also need to pack your books up and mail them off to a Soldiers Angels office, with documentation inside. More info:

Donating books to Soldiers Angels

In return, you'll get a receipt from Soldiers Angel, and of course the great feeling that comes from helping our servicemen and -women in some small way.

Donate books to Books from the Heart

So, you've made your own individual book donations and are ready for more of a challenge? Consider organizing a full-on book drive to benefit a high-needs school. Since 1997, Books from the Heart, a program of the Heart of America Foundation, has provided more than 3 million new and like-new books (no sloppy copies, please) to classrooms in dire need and has attracted sponsors like Target and Oprah Winfrey.

This could be a great adopt-a-school project for a middle- or upper-income school district, birthday party tactic for charitably minded kids (have guests bring books to donate in lieu of gifts, if you've got enough toys already), mitzvah project, etc. More info:

Running a book drive for Books from the Heart

Where to? How many? Any tips? Thanks for stopping by!

Have you donated books?

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    • orange3 lm profile image

      orange3 lm 6 years ago

      I do donate books to the library. I also like to donate books, magazines, cd's and dvd's to nursing homes. I the patient can't read it themselves, sometimes the workers or family members will read to them.

    • verymary profile image

      Mary 6 years ago from Chicago area

      @cdevries: right -- the library thing I covered above .... but did not know about Half Price Books' charity activities; will have to check that out! thx for the tip!

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 6 years ago

      Many libraries hold sales of donated books as a fund raiser. If you have a half Price Books store, they often have drives for books to go to poor schools and/or other countries ESL programs.