12 Best Places to Donate Used Books in 2019

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They line the shelves of your home. Some are old, some are new, some are from college, and some teach you a thing or two about life, love, cooking, and relationships. Some are stacked in the corner and may even serve as a resting place for your houseplant. I’m talking about all those books you have!

If you can’t find an empty shelf because they’re lined with your beloved books you will never open again, you should consider donating them. You may feel an attachment to these books because you love them, but if you really love them, you’ll set them free to be read and enjoyed by other people, rather than a life confined to collecting dust and yellowing pages.

If you really can’t let go of the book, replace it with a digital copy. All my books are either audiobooks or ebooks and although I appreciate flipping through physical pages, I also love my uncluttered space a lot more.

So, now that you’re finally ready to let them go, the next step is to find the best place to donate them.

This is a list of some organizations that will accept your book donations — from the well-known second-hand shops (Salvation Army) to lesser-known nonprofits (donate to prisons).

If you want to understand what your options are, check out the following places where you can share the gift of knowledge through your old books and have peace of mind that your books will have a longer shelf life!

Also, don’t forget that donations are tax-deductible, so make sure to get receipts and save them, come tax season.

Thrift Stores

1. Salvation Army

Did you know the Salvation Army has been around since 1865? The Salvation Army helps 25 million Americans and serves 128 countries around the world.

Most major cities have a Salvation Army since it’s one of the world’s largest social aid resources designed to help the needy, poor, homeless, and jobless.

Check their website to find the closest location to you.

2. Goodwill

If Salvation Armys are lacking in your neighborhood, check out Goodwill. They accept donations of all kinds and even has a Value Guide that tells you how much your donated items are worth.

Proceeds will help fund job training and placement programs for people who need jobs, particularly those who may be in greater need due to a disability or other challenge.

Local Spots

3. Your Neighborhood Library

Call or stop by your local library and ask about donation guidelines before you actually stop by to drop off your books. Most libraries have a list of what they will and won’t accept.

4. Homeless Shelters

As with many nonprofits in need, homeless shelters often need books to provide for those in need of their services.

Call or email your local shelter to see if there is a list of requirements that need to be met before you donate.

Here are a few more places you can contact in your local area to see if you can donate your books:

  • Children’s Hospitals
  • School libraries and daycare centers
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Local thrift stores
  • Church

Ship Your Books by Mail

If you don’t have boxes and boxes to donate, you can afford to be a little bit more choosy about where you send your books. Online donation sites provide lots of options for where you’d like your books to go.

Keep in mind many of the sites will expect you to cover shipping in addition to donating your books.

5. Books for Soldiers

Support our troops by sending them your used books through Books for Soldiers. The nonprofit was founded in 2003, and has shipped $30 million in care packages, which include books. The company operates 100 percent on donations, so their site asks for donations in through PayPal.

6. Operation Paperback

There’s also Operation Paperback, which has been around since 1999 to help collect gently-used books to send to American troops overseas and vets and military families in the U.S.

The site gives you the option of making a monetary donation or you can send the books directly to the soldiers, covering the cost of shipping along with the books.

Operation Paperback has a number of other projects that take advantage of book donations that are sent to:

  • Wounded warrior programs and veterans hospitals located in the U.S., as well as USO centers at airport transit points.
  • Supplying children’s books to deployed soldiers who read to their kids via webcam or on video
  • Supplying books for an annual book giveaway for service members and their families

Related Post: Legit Ways to Get Free Books For Kids

7. Books for Africa

Help someone in Africa get their hands on your books by donating them to Books for Africa. The nonprofit, founded in 1988, accepts all kinds of fiction, nonfiction, and textbooks and has delivered over 40 million books to Africa.

They accept books via mail (it costs 50 cents to ship each book to Africa), but also accept books via drop off if you happen to live in the St. Paul, MN or Atlanta, GA area.

Here’s a brief guide for what to donate:

  • Books that are less than 15 years old
  • Textbooks from K-12 to college, published after 2000
  • Reference books that were published in 2005 or later
  • Medical, nursing, IT, and law books published after 2000

Books for Africa encourages you to also donate in order to help cover the cost of sending the books. You can get information about where to ship the books on their donate page.

8. Books Through Bars

Books Through Bars provide books to those serving time in jail. Because you’re donating to a prison, the rules for what you can and can’t donate are more stringent. Keep in mind this option is best if you happen to have a lot of the books that are on their high demand list.

If you have a variety of paperback books that pertain to the following subjects, donate them to Books Through Bars.

In addition to having an Amazon Wishlist, they are always in need of the following kinds of books:

  • Paperback dictionaries
  • Instructional art that teaches you how to draw or paint
  • Tattoo art
  • Historical studies
  • Urban fiction
  • How to books (how to learn a trade or skill, such as plumbing)
  • Puzzle books
  • True crime

Books They Don’t Want:

  • Hardback fiction
  • Romance novels
  • Out-of-date textbooks
  • Books in bad condition

9. Books to Prisoners

Similar to Books Through Bars, Seattle-based nonprofit Books to Prisoners has a clear mission to “foster a love of reading behind bars, encourage the pursuit of knowledge and self-empowerment, and break the cycle of recidivism.”

At the time of writing, they aren’t accepting any books, unless they are paperback and pertain to the following topics:

  • Dictionaries
  • Thesauruses
  • African American history and fiction,
  • Foreign language books (especially how to speak Spanish)

Before you donate, make sure to check the condition of the books. Here are more requirements:

  • The condition must be good: covers must be in tact, pages should still be attached to the spine, pages should be relatively free of highlights and writing
  • It shouldn’t be too outdated
  • Check the content: books should not be about alcohol, drugs, or have pictures pertaining to violence, nudity or martial arts training

Books to Prisoners also has a donate page that uses PayPal, if you’re interested in making a monetary donation.

10. Better World Books

They call themselves “The Online Bookstore with a Soul.” Better World Books collects and sells books online and then donates the profits to fund literacy initiatives around the world. They have over 8 million new and used books in stock and their mission is to promote literacy.

If you’re ready to donate to Better World Books, visit their donate page and mail your books to the address listed. Make sure the book meets the requirements for acceptance.

Once you get the itch to buy more books, consider using Better World Books to actually purchase your books too.

Places That Will Pick Up

11. Pickup Please

If you’re sitting on a monster pile of books and would like some help getting them picked up, Pickup Please might be worth considering. Based on their site, it seems like Pickup Please is a bit more flexible in what they will accept:

  • Textbooks
  • Magazines
  • Hardcover books
  • Softcover
  • Children’s books
  • Fiction, nonfiction

Your books will help support U.S. veterans and general initiatives around reading and literacy.

You can schedule a pickup from their site and expect to get your books picked up within a 24-hour time frame (depends on your location). After you make a schedule, put your books inside of a box or bag, but make sure they are clearly labeled.

You don’t even have to be home, just leave the labeled box or bag outside of your house. Once your books are picked up, the driver will leave you a donation and tax deduction receipt for you. They emphasize that they’ll pick up no matter what — rain or shine.

12. Donation Town

Similar to Pickup Please, Donation Town will pick up your books for a variety of charities. You need to put in your zip code to schedule a pickup time, and whichever charity that has partnered up with DonationTown will show up. Pick up is free.

3 Tips Before You Donate, Especially If You Have a Ton of Books

In looking through many of these resources where your books can be given a second life — you may have noticed that they don’t accept anything and everything.

Some have stricter requirements than others, but stick to these tips before you start the process, especially if you have a lot of books.

For the pile of books you’ve deemed as not being in good enough condition to donate, use them for creative projects with your kids. Check out some really cool and creative ideas on Pinterest for how to recycle old books. From book page roses to Christmas book trees, the ideas are endless.

1. Make Sure the Condition Is Good

It’s expected that your books won’t be in brand new condition, but don’t donate the ones that are really used. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the ones with torn pages, scribbles, ripped covers, water damage, or the pages that have pulled apart from the spine.

If they’re too messed up to be read properly, chances are, they won’t be accepted.

2. Group Similar Books Into the Same Boxes

Sift through your books and group the following together, so it makes it easier to donate to certain causes. If you have a lot of how to books that are soft covers, donating to prisoners might be your best bet. If you have a lot of children’s books, donating to a school might be best.

  • Textbooks
  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Children’s books
  • Paperback
  • Hardcover

Going back to tip no. 1, if the book is in bad shape, create a separate pile for those books. Those can be thrown out.

3. Check the Requirement List

Wherever you decide to donate, make sure to double check what kinds of books they won’t take. Better to know this ahead of time so you don’t waste time lugging it to your local thrift store, only to get rejected.

Is It Time to Go Digital?

Donating books that you have accumulated over the years is charitable and lengthens the life of your books. However, if you don’t want to have to do this every few years, consider going digital. There are a few pros and cons to this.

A big pro is that you never have to worry about the burden of accumulating lots of books that you’ll probably only read once and never open again. If a clutter-free home is important to you, try going digital.

I’ve been using e-books and audible for the past three years and I find it incredibly easy to reference old books that I want to read or listen to again. I love audiobooks, so I’m more inclined to listen to the same book twice than sit down and read. Having my collection in a cloud that I can access at any time is also really convenient when I’m traveling.

Of course, a con is that you won’t be able to donate the books when you’re done reading them. Contract laws (not copyright laws) restrict you from being able to donate them digitally. Even sharing a book digitally isn’t very easy to do, much less donate them.

But I admit, there’s nothing like reading a book, feeling its pages, and just being able to flip it back open when you’re ready to dive right in. No worrying about batteries, opening an app or waiting for it to load.

Once I’m done with the book, however, it goes into a pile and will surely be donated.

Summary

There are many great places to donate your used books. Pick a cause to support and declutter your home all at once.

What’s your favorite way to donate books?

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