Absolutely Nobody Wants This Book

This is Part 3 of Nora’s series on Book Inventory. Nora can be found at Rainy Day Paper Back Exchange Please give her a visit.

Part 1 | Part 2


Admit it, nobody wants this book
Eventually there comes a time when you must admit nobody wants this book. You could offer it as a freebie with purchase and people would say “no, thanks.” This usually happens with books that the material is so dated or out of style as to be worthless (diet books from the eighties) or everybody that wants one already owns one. (I’m looking at you, two-year- old NY times bestseller!)

So now what? You have two options. Use them for something other than their original function as books or give them away.

Get out the knife and get crafting!
If you are of an artistic bent, you can always, GASP turn your books into something other than books. Or you can specifically offer them as supplies to artists. Some art stores will buy them by the pound for sale as supplies. Many people will slice up books with nice pictures to use them for decoupage, collage, etc.

Here’s some examples of things people have done with books. If you’re even semi crafty, this may make a nice sideline for you.
[editor’s note: I’m not sure how long Etsy keeps their items/images, let me know via a comment if these links cease to work well.]

Wondercabinet produces prints on old pages of text, including dictionaries:

Pinky Brown Inc. also draws on old book pages, plus uses some for embroidery!

Dis-card uses old books, maps, and sheet music to make on of a kind greeting cards:

retrograndma uses books as the back for clocks and also hollows out the innards to turn them into purses. (she also does neat stuff with records, if you’re stumped as to what to do with those)

MaxineDear uses old library binding books to make purses and wallets.

Refabulous makes wallets and business card holders

IKCdesign turns old books into checkbook covers

Chaos Into Art uses old books to make blank journals

Paperfaerie turns paperback books into sculptures

urbana hollows out books to turn them into stash boxes and safes

PistolesPress turns books into 3-D silhouette sculptures (Go look, its easier than describing)

lineanongrata I’m not even sure how to describe what she makes, other than art with book innards

Vestal Designs used them to install a bar!

And while I couldn’t find pictures, Brunswick Bound books in Australia apparently made their front counter out books!

Danny Seo turned a book into a birdhouse

Urban Outfitters offers a wound paper vase made out of magazine pages and book covers

Still need ideas? You can spend hours and hours and hours looking at what artists have done to books at the International Society of Altered Book Artists website

But I hurt myself with the glue gun…
So maybe crafts aren’t for you and you don’t know any artists. There’s still lots of options besides throwing the books in the trash.

You can sell them to a house dresser. House dressers (or house stagers) basically dress up new houses with furniture and some items to make it look like a home rather than a big empty box. They love books for this, especially encyclopedias!

The local high school or college art program may appreciate a donation of books that they can use to try out some of the examples listed at the start of this post.

Some train or bus stations have a “free” rack at them where you can leave books.

If you’d rather have them be read as books, here’s some places that may take books:
Thrift Stores such as Goodwill and Salvation Army
Your local library show
Church rummage sale
Nursing Home or hospice
Daycare center or after school program
Battered women’s shelter or homeless shelter
Hospital or VA hospital
Freecycle.org will hook you up with individuals that want your books for free

Remember, if you give your books away, somehow MARK them so that you don’t take them back in a fit of forgetfulness. You can make it obvious by stamping the book with something like “no return” or use a more subtle method. For example, you could leave a small pencil X in close to the binding on page 5 of each book you offload. It doesn’t seriously deface the book and its not obvious it’s a reject either… but you know where to look to make sure you aren’t getting a reject back!

And of course, if you’re going to offload books for free, spend a tiny little bit of money on one last thing: print some business cards and slip them into the books as bookmarks before they leave. Maybe a booklover will see it and come find you…

Rainy Day Paperback Exchange
Bethel, CT
gently used books for kids and adults

Related Posts: Part 1 | Part 2 | Have you Plannogrammed Lately

18 thoughts on “Absolutely Nobody Wants This Book”

  1. I read on some bulletin board about leaving books at bus stops (or on buses during inclement weather) but if you do this the business card will get you a “I found your book” call. – although you could print up a card saying, “This book is yours to keep or give to a friend. Visit Yadedah.com”

    I think leaving books around for people to pick up is a good idea but I’d suggest that it not be a tome on clinical heart disease or agriculture stats of 1950’s Nebraska.

    Good posting. One of these days I will have to start sorting more than I have done up to now. Problem is I love books and hate to see them get shredded. – At least the purse, wallet & birdhouse ideas sort of gives them a bit longer to live…

  2. I’ve seen some train/bus stations (including our local one) have an actual rack that has a sign saying “please take some, compliments of X”. Usually it’s the local library, but if the terminal is willing and you’re willing to shell out for a rack, it may be the best advertising you ever bought!

    I’ve given stuff to the rummage sale for local animal welfare place several times and what I’ll do is print little stamp sized paperbits with the name and address and stick them in the middle of the book before they leave. We’ve seen some come back over the years, but it’s usually more than a year before we see them again!

    And here’s another use of pages. The art used magazines in this case, which I know people are always trying to foist on me.

  3. Sorry but I am of the opinion that there comes a time to THROW in the trash those old obsolete books. It’s like clothing…they’ve been used and abused…send them to never never land.

    I have been reading and watching here for the last 2 weeks, trying to decide which way to go on those dead spots in the store. My son came in yesterday and went through about 5 sections, discarding, discarding!!! He moved some to different places and re-arranged the rest. I bet I’ll have people in that think I have different stock!!!

    Anyway, I do think there comes a time to pitch. There are so many old books, non-fiction, that are so outdated there is no hope. I will concentrate on other things and see how the cleaning out and reshevling works for me. Has anyone else got the itch to discard??

  4. I will freely admit to some mangy books being put to good use every year keeping me warm.

    I have a woodstove. There’s frequently a mangy diet book next to the box of matches. Aren’t much good for serious heat, but they work nicely as tinder.

  5. Another good alternative is Bookcrossing.com- an organized attempt to turn the world into a public library…

  6. I leave stacks of books in our local laundromat all the time and they are always gone when I come back with fresh supplies. A good outlet for my overgrowth of parenting books and romance paperbacks.

    -Rachel, Old Saratoga Books

  7. I remember seeing rather a nice project which involved drilling a hole through the middle of perhaps 10 or 15 books, then gluing them so that the holes are lined up. (You’ll want to offset them slightly so that it looks like a random pile, not too neat and organised.) This, together with a lamp making kit, can be turned into rather an attractive table lamp.

    Now, I am perhaps the least crafty person in the world, so I can’t claim to have ever made one of these myself. But I did think it was rather a nice idea,

  8. If you enjoy destroying books so much, why not do it properly and just pile them all up and set fire to them in a national socialist style? What do you do with your old flags? make em into dishrags? I thought this might be a bibliophile friendly site…

  9. Simon, Thanks for the comment but you’re not seeing things through the eyes of a dealer. Most of us that have open shops receive thousands of books every month (even every week at times). Many of these books need to find a new home but there are hundreds of books that were printed many thousands of times over often in many editions. If these books weren’t properly disposed of we would be so overrun with trash that we could not run our businesses. This post is a fun way to look at these books, offering alternate ways of dealing with the tons of paper we need to discard.

  10. Hi Simon – It did come off a bit strong and thanks for the apology.

    I was always one who hated the idea of destroying books but for some books there comes a time. Especially for those book stores that depend on moving books out the door through sales and getting new stock to fill the empty spaces. Without the turnover they would be spending rent money just to give the books a home. – Booksellers can’t afford to be married to their stock. – If a book will never sell they might as well have a priest come in and officiate a ceremony that makes the union legal.

    Notice that not all the suggestions were destructive. Many ideas were for spreading the unwanted books around the neighborhood with a little advertising thrown in.

    I like the lamp idea and have a few old medical school books (so outdated the material in ’em might be dangerous) that would work and perhaps would be ideal for a doctor’s office. – Maybe one of these days…

  11. Bookmooch.com is a great place to list books you don’t want. You get a point for each book given which can be used to get another book. Another great way to keep books out of the landfill . . .

  12. I’ve also started using PaperbackSwap (http://www.paperbackswap.com ) which, despite name, does handle hardcovers and audiobooks. Ship a book, get a credit you can use to get a different book. Membership is free!

    There’s also a program on there called “Box of Books” where you can swap multiple books with other people, no credits required. So you can swap off all that spare Danielle Steel for something you actually NEED.

  13. I have to agree that there are some books that are not going to be saleable for whatever reason, too damaged ,too dated, too dull. I know a local distributor who sends books to landfill, these are books that I wouldn’t take for free even though they are brand new. The charity shops didn’t want them either. If they are never going to sell why waste money paying for storage?
    No matter how much we booksellers love books the truth is with second hand books supply and demand are out of balance. If no-one wants it off my $1 trolley the charity shop won’t want it either.
    If we were completely ruthless we would be destroying a lot more. I used to give away hundreds of books but the people who took the free ones never made it inside to buy a book. The charity shops never give books away so why did I?
    Now I put the unsaleable into the paper recycle.

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