Where Do Books Go?

In the previous post, I talked about where books come from. But once a reader has read them, where do they go? I know several people who keep their books—every one of them—even after they’ve read them, presumably forever. I’m not like that. I know I’m unlikely to re-read a book and I hate stuff piling up. If you regularly weed your books, you already have methods or places for disposing of them.  But here’s a list of options anyway.

  •  Friends of the Library, for their used book sales (occasionally, depending on Friends’ and the Library’s policies, these may end up in the Library’s collection.)
  •  Donations to thrift shops, either ones run by small local organizations, or the Big Boys of thrift shops, e.g. The Salvation Army. Our local Goodwill actually has a separate store, just for used books. For these first two options, you can usually get a tax deduction.
  •  Pass them on to friends who want to read them.
  • Drop them off at a senior center, women’s shelter or similar place, if they are appropriate.
  •  Sell them on line. There are a ton of used book buying web sites, each with their own preferences for what they buy and condition requirement, or you can go through eBay or Amazon.
  •  Sell them to used book stores or trade them in for other used books. My sister single handedly keeps Florida’s Chamblin Bookmine in business. Lots of used book stores have this model.
  •  If you have something truly unique and valuable, a rare book or special collections library might be interested. But don’t count on it.  This is a long shot.

(Reader Discretion Advised: The following suggestion may be upsetting for some readers.)

  •  Toss them out. Yes, in the trash. Drastic? Yes. Unthinkable? Not to me. I’m not one of those folks who think the physical artifact is a sacred treasure. (Unless, of course, it is a sacred treasure—a rare book, a family heirloom, a childhood favorite.) Nor do I think that every single book deserves to be recycled to some other needy reader. As I wrote in the previous post, books are everywhere in abundance. Nobody needs to be stuck with really bad ones. Plus, there comes a point when a book is so damaged, dirty or otherwise yucky, that it would be a sin to foist it off on someone else. If you are a fan of the TV shows Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive as I am, you know what I mean.
  •  Finally, leave them on the “free table.” I mentioned this in the previous post and I promised to tall more about it in the future.

There are a couple of tricky situations that can gum up the works.  I’ll talk about them in the next post.  A final word:  if you keep all your books forever, none of this will apply to you. Just your heirs.

About Lida Bushloper

writer and poet
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