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Where to Donate Used Books – 10 Places to Start

By Angela Colley

how to donate booksI love books. I stop at every bookstore I pass and usually pick up at least one new book, if not more. My love of books is no secret, and friends and family always know what to get me for Christmas and for my birthday. The result is that I have an enormous collection!

Though I love hoarding them, I realize I won’t read many of these books ever again. Moreover, my collection now takes up too much space and I can’t stand the clutter. But I hate the idea of throwing anything remotely usable into a landfill. So to strike a balance between my love for books and dislike of clutter, I’ve decided to spread the joy my beloved books have brought me by donating them to worthy causes.

You can donate old books to a variety of places, while also receiving tax deductions for charitable contributions. Best of all, your unwanted pile of books can help others who enjoy reading as much as you do.

Where to Donate Books Locally

Donating your used books locally saves you the shipping costs of mailing your books and benefits charities and needy families in your area.

You can donate books at a variety of locations in your community, including:

1. The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army accepts used goods donations, including hardback and paperback books. The donations go to stock the Salvation Army store, or to provide reading materials for Salvation Army’s homeless shelters. You can find drop-off locations in your community on the Salvation Army website.

2. Goodwill
Goodwill accepts used book donations for their resale stores. Proceeds from the stores fund job training and placement programs for those who face unemployment challenges, such as the disabled. You can find a drop-off location near you on the Goodwill website.

3. Libraries
Most libraries have a Friends of the Library Society. These societies hold book sales and other fundraisers to benefit the libraries. The groups use donated books to stock library shelves or resell the books at fundraising events. Typically, library societies accept like-new and gently used book donations.

4. Local Thrift Stores
Local second hand thrift stores can use your donated books. Before you donate, though, check out the store’s policies; some thrift stores don’t operate as nonprofit organizations. However, you may want to donate your books to these stores just to increase the availability of affordable books in your community.

5. Got Books? Fundraisers
If you have an idea for a fundraiser and a few friends with piles of unwanted books, you can start your own book drive. Got Books? provides crates you can use to collect donations from your neighborhood. The group purchases your used books and cuts you a check, which you can give to the charity of your choice.

6. Reading Tree
Reading Tree has book donation centers throughout the U.S. The charity collects used books and donates them to underfunded libraries and schools, both in the U.S. and overseas. If Reading Tree doesn’t have a donation center in your area, but you know of a good place to put one, you can request a crate on their website.

Where to Ship Your Books

While you have to pay for the cost of shipping, these charities work for really cool causes:

7. Books for Soldiers
With Books for Soldiers, you can create care packages with your used books and send them to deployed soldiers overseas. After signing up as a volunteer on the website, which is required for security, you can browse through the soldiers’ book requests. Some soldiers request specific books or types of books, but most just ask for anything. You can also add CDs or DVDs to your care package.

8. Books for Africa
Books For Africa sends freight containers full of thousands of books to students in Africa. The charity looks for reference books and recent textbooks, both primary and secondary educational levels, but you can also send fiction and nonfiction books.

9. Books Through Bars
Books Through Bars, as well as Books To Prisoners, collects donated books and distributes them to inmates. Having access to reading material helps prisoners who aspire to higher education and helps them adjust to outside life at the end of their sentences. You can find a list of the most wanted materials on the Books Through Bars website. The list includes dictionaries, Spanish books, study guides, textbooks, history books, drug and alcohol recovery books, and spiritual books. Paperbacks are preferred since most prisons do not allow hardcover books.

10. Better World Books
Better World Books sells donated books through several online marketplaces. The proceeds go toward funding the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations, a charitable organization that supports public libraries.

Final Word

Before you donate your books, check out the charity’s book donation policies. Every charity needs certain types of books, and you may have to donate to more than one organization to get rid of your entire stash.

If you donate your books, get a receipt and keep track of which books you donate, as well as their condition, for tax purposes. While you do not need to submit the receipts to the IRS, it is wise to retain them to determine the size of the donations tax deduction you can claim. You may also want to have them handy in case of a tax audit.

Where do you donate books? Can you recommend any other charities not listed here?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Angela Colley
Angela Colley is a freelance writer living in New Orleans, Louisiana with a background in mortgage and real estate. Her interests include animal rights advocacy, green living, mob movies and finding the best deal on everything. She blames her extreme passion for never paying full price on two parents that taught her that a penny saved is two pennies if invested wisely.

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  • http://moneysavingenthusiast.com/3/post/2011/11/in-honor-of-veterans-day-book-dedication-and-review.html Karen@MSEnthusiast

    Good to know. I guess I should be collecting receipts.

    • Angela Colley

      You don’t absolutely have to have them, but it helps if the IRS ever questions anything.

  • http://twitter.com/moneytrailnet MoneyTrail.net

    I will often ask teachers at my kids’ school if they could use books that my kids have outgrown. They love to add books to their classroom libraries.

    • Angela Colley

      That is a great idea for children’s and educational books. Thanks!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SUGAEVBKAHVAQTXG5QJKW3SHIY Eeyore004

    “Typically, library societies accept like-new and gently used book donations.”
    Thank you so much for specifying this. I work in a library and can honestly say that it creates an unfair amount of work for us when people donate items that are worthless- outdated encyclopedias, old National Geographics, Reader’s Digest condensed books, anything with mold/dust/yellowed pages/holes/moisture damage. We understand that people have held onto these items because they have sentimental value, but when they’re abandoned at our doorstep, sentiment costs us in labor, resources, and disposal costs. I’m sure the same applies to other institutions. Please, please, know when to just tear the covers off and recycle; don’t burden these lovely organizations with items that they can’t use!

    • Angela Colley

      No problem, I used to volunteer at a library on the weekends. I would say the majority of our donations were old National Geographics and paperbacks missing the cover. I think people just don’t realize what will and won’t work.

  • http://www.bargainbabe.com Yazmin

    You can also sell your books. There are some site that will send you the box for you to ship the books and will send you your check when they receive them.

  • http://www.bargainbabe.com Yazmin

    You can also sell your books. There are some site that will send you the box for you to ship the books and will send you your check when they receive them.

    • Angela Colley

      I actually saw a man at the post office yesterday trying to mail books in a box that looked like it was from one of those places. Have you used any of those sites before? I’d be interested to see if they paid decent and how fast the payment came.

    • Guest

      Better World Books buys books and accepts donations!

      • Lillypad2222

        Better World Books is misleading… They “accept book donations so that they can make a profit off of the donated books. They tell college campuses to hold textbook drives, and students donate their used textbooks thinking the books will be used by some poor students in places like Africa, but BWB is a FOR Profit company and this is their way to gain access to free books that they can resell. Apparently, they will donate 10% of their profit to charity, but this is after they are getting their profitable books for FREE by people “donating.” Very misleading. If I donate a book to a charity, I want ALL of the money from reselling the book to go to charity OR the donated book to go directly to someone who needs it because they don’t have money to buy it.

        In the UK and Australia, Oxfam has used book stores across the country and VOLUNTEERS run the bookshops and 100% of the profits go to help people in desperate need of clean water, food, farm equipment etc.. They also run charity shops with volunteers and 100% of the profits go to do good… NOT 10% like Better World Books.

        You mentioned Purple Heart, which has gotten some very bad press lately, as they pour all their money into a FOR Profit Fundraising company so that the company gets the profits and NOT the vets. Watch Anderson Cooper 360 about charity frauds including veterans charities and SPCA. Heartbreaking to think people would step so low.

        • annonymous

          I see what you are saying, but that is not entirely true! They are a social enterprise. It’s true that they make profit, but the amount of donations that they give is insane. I think you are underestimating the costs of their company. I have a friend that used to work for them. I see how you could think that, but it’s not entirely accurate.

  • http://www.bargainbabe.com Yazmin

    You can also sell your books. There are some site that will send you the box for you to ship the books and will send you your check when they receive them.

  • http://www.mypersonalfinancejourney.com My Personal Finance Journey

    We do not donate our old books in charity organizations. We just give them to the children of our less fortunate friends and neighbors. We also sell them, along with other clothes and stuff, in garage sales and fund-raising events. I guess that is already a “donation” in a different form.

    • Angela Colley

      That is great! If I had children’s books, I’d rather see them go to a neighborhood kiddo as well.

  • http://www.simplelifecorp.com Patti

    These are great resources for donating used books. I also can’t stand the thought of a perfectly good, clean book finding it’s way into the landfill. It’s exciting that there are so many places that will help in distributing these books to people who want them.
    I did want to note, though, that when I went to the Reading Tree link, they have the appearance of no longer being in business. I sent an email to see if they respond.

    • Angela Colley

      Patti – Thanks for the heads up on Reading Tree. I gave them a call and spoke to a rep. They are still accepting book donations, but I let them know that their site is having issues, (I noticed the “where to donate” link isn’t working.) Hopefully they’ll get it fixed soon.

  • Lissa

    I also participate in a book exchange program like Bookmooch so I can pass along a perfectly good book to someone who wants to read it. You have to pay for shipping though but I use media mail and it only costs a few dollars.

  • Dallas

    Another great place to donate books is Habitat for Humanity. They accept everything but textbooks and encyclopedias.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gianfranco.lisi.1 Gianfranco Lisi

    If you live in Los Angeles, American Book Drive offers a great pickup service. They raise money for Susan G. Komen for the cure. They also have drop off locations all over LA.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hayley-Kunkel/726264174 Hayley Kunkel

    Another good place to donate books is your local hospital or nursing home. My aunt was in the hospital for several weeks and they had a book cart that would go around unfortunately most of the books was nothing but old western novels that were about 20 years old because people just don’t donate that often there. Also in reading the comment and hating to see perfectly good books destroyed several months ago while in Barnes and Noble i watched as an employee sat there destroying books. If a book goes unsold for a period of time the destroy them and throw in the trash. I was absolutely appalled by this and have not returned there since.

    • Liz

      As a Barnes & Noble employee of many years I can tell you that generally booksellers abhor “stripping” books, which is what you witnessed is called. But the process is 100% the decree of the publishers, they won’t even let us donate them – even after the covers have been stripped so they can’t be sold in the future. They used to let employees take home stripped books but then the publishers decreed that no, they must be thrown away. This is the practice of EVERYWHERE that sells exclusively new books, so don’t hate on B&N for something that they have no choice about.

      I once had to strip 300 copies of my favorite book and it absolutely broke my heart.

      • Lauren

        Liz, you’re right that people shouldn’t bash the employees for what they are told to do. BUT, what other way are we to show our distate at this practice than by hurting the publishers (usually by not purchasing the books–wherever they’re sold). I didn’t know this happened so often. Perhaps we should be generating awareness and demanding that publishers donate these books to people in need … WITH the covers on! Honestly, if I worked at a bookstore (which would be a dream), I don’t think I could do it. I commend you–and feel for you–because I think I’d quit!

  • john leslie

    Another good place is San Diego Down Syndrome .org in San Diego . They really help the community there

  • Karla

    I am looking for people to donate books to our High School Library. My sister has been paying out of pocket for some books the High school kids want to read. She can’t keep buying them. We need donations. Oh, my sister is the high school librarian. School has no funds to order books and are thinking of shutting down the library. My sister has students come in and are reading series of books that they are wanting the next book and it isn’t’ there. She had a student tell her that he never read much before, but now he can’t wait until he finishes one to start another. Her library needs help. Any ideas? It is in a small town of about 2700 people give or take a few. Any donations of books would be appreciated. You can email me at [email protected] to let me know where to start to find those donated books. Thank you in advance!

  • Rosa Garcia

    Got Books, and Reading Tree : dunzo. :(

  • Barbara

    Barbara B.
    American Association of University Women takes donations of gently used books, sells them, and donates 100% of profits to scholarships, fellowships and post grad grants, as well as community service organizations. AAUW’s book sale is operated by all volunteers, unlike Better World Books and other organizations that have (high) paid executives operating used book sales. Better World Books may donate 10% of their profits, but as a social enterprise, the company is not required to have (and Better World Books does not have) accounting practices subject to public scrutiny such as not-for-profits must have, so it is impossible to verify their 10% charitable donation claim. And with 100′s of paid employees, operating expenses come before “profits” are calculated.
    AAUW book sales are located in many US cities – Atlanta AAUW’s 55th Annual (that’s right, 55 years!!!) BookFair will be held at Perimeter Mall starting Sept 22 @ 6:00. It is a fabulous place to buy good quality used books – hardbacks mostly priced at $2-$4 range, most paperbacks $1, collectible books at a fraction of internet values. Atlanta AAUW will pick up large donations (more than 10 boxes of books). Check the internet for your local AAUW branch to see if they hold a book sale.

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