Wednesday, December 29, 2010

After You Declutter the Books: Donating vs. Selling - and Other Options

You've decided you're ready to part with some books - now what do you do with them? Green America does a great job of laying out the alternatives: sell, donate, swap or "set them free."

Here's a perspective from organizer Margaret Lukens (from an e-mail, quoted by permission):
For what it’s worth, my experience with Amazon has not been wonderful. They do everything right, but from my perspective, here’s what happens:

I list a dozen books, or a hundred, whatever.

After weeks or months, someone buys one.

I have 72 hours to drop everything else and correspond with the buyer and wrap and ship the book, for which I will get about $7 on average, unless it’s a paperback, in which case, it won’t buy a latte.

Meanwhile, I’ve still had the box of books to store.

Several weeks or months later, someone buys another.

It’s a heck of a way to earn $7! I’d rather donate them, get the tax benefit, and be done with it.
I'm with Margaret; for many of us, Amazon is too much effort for too little money. Of course, another alternative is selling to a bookstore dealing in used books - a local one, or an online one - as commenter Michelle notes on Unclutterer:
I had a great experience selling my books online to Powell’s. Just enter the ISBNs, they bid on the books they want to buy, and if you accept the bid they give you the shipping label. You get store credit in exchange, which is quite handy in my grad-student household.

Like most used-book stores, Powell’s will reject some titles on Tuesday but offer to buy them on Wednesday, so I checked back with them several times to see if they’d take any that they’d passed on the first time.
Other people are fans of various book-swapping sites - including Kirk McElhearn, who is especially fond of BookMooch. His whole essay is worth reading, but here's one little part:
What is especially interesting about BookMooch, compared with some of the other book trading services, is its international aspect: there are members from 44 countries, and this is increasing daily. For me in France, this is excellent: there are plenty of members in the EU, so I can swap without incurring overseas postage costs. ...

I’m mostly interested in finding homes for my books – the idea of throwing books away is anathema to me, but I’m fast running out of room. If I can give books away, and get other books in exchange, especially books that I’ve wanted to read, this is perfect.
One thing swappers say is that when getting books, be sure to filter out those that come from smoking homes, or those that are marked up, if these things matter to you. And be sure you know the condition; some people got books that were practically falling apart.

And then some people are extremely happy with Bookcrossing, where people register and label their books, give them away or "release them into the wild" - and then follow each book's journey as recipients log in to give updates. You can read the raves over on Lovemarks; here's part of what Corinne in the Netherlands had to say:
Bookcrossing has changed my life. That may sound dramatic, and while it isn't dramatic, it HAS changed my life. In my whole life I have never before met so many warm and generous people in just one year, in just one group, joined by just that one idea of sharing one's books.
Personally, I've sold books to a local bookstore, given them away on Freecycle, and donated them. Bookcrossing sounds intriguing, so I just may have to give that a try. Anyone want to share what YOU'VE done with the books you're done with?

Related Post:
10 Ways to Find New Homes for Your Books

[photo by anna_t of Stockholm, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons]


Maggie Eickhoff said... is my favorite way to swap books. Most paperbacks ship for $2.38 and the website gives you 3 credits to start with.

Pauline Wiles said...

Six years ago when we moved to the US, we had a massive book purge - it just didn't make sense to ship them here. Since then, we've relied heavily on libraries to avoid acquiring too many more.

I'm with Margaret - the effort to sell books and other items, for the $$ made, is rarely the most appealing use of my time!

Marcie Lovett said...

I have been selling books on Amazon for over a year. Typically, I only make 3 or 4 dollars on each sale, after you factor in the cost of the envelope and the shipping.

I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but I get a little excited when I see that one of my books has sold. When I get tired of looking at the books waiting to be sold, I take them to a thrift shop and delist them on Amazon.

Seems like now is a good time to take a look at that stack!

Louise said...

I have a $10 minimum on selling used books through Amazon. I price the book to be the lowest priced seller, so if someone else is selling at $11, I will list my book. Otherwise, the time and effort and storage isn't worth it.

Books that don't make the $10 cut get donated, usually to a campground or RV rally book swap.

Jeri Dansky said...

Maggie, seems to have many fans. And it handles more than paperbacks, despite the name - as I'm sure you know, but not all readers will. However, it is U.S. only - sorry, readers from other countries!

The English Organizer, making any move - much less one of your magnitude - often triggers a book re-evaluation. In the comments to another post, a former moving company person wrote about how books can really increase the bill.

Marcie, it seems your experience is much the same as Margaret's, money-wise - you just enjoy it much more than she does!

Louise, I like your pricing strategy - that makes a lot of sense if the goal is to get rid of the books!

Cena Block said...

Thanks Jeri - Just sent it out via FB to my folks! I'm a fan... but My hubby just got me a B&N Book Nook for Christmas... Oh NOOOO - now what?

Thanks again for always posting relevant and well-researched information. You're awesome!

life uncluttered said...

One of my local hospitals accepts used books in good condition to be sold in their giftshop, or to be given to patients who would like to read. I also (with permission) leave books, paperbacks and magazines in a couple of my doctors' waiting rooms, with a note to please take it if you like it. My doctors have actually told me that they have gotten compliments on having great free for the taking reading material.

Jeri Dansky said...

Cena, thanks for the kind words - and thanks for sharing this post! I have an iPad and have enjoyed reading eBooks - but my paper books coexist very nicely with the eBooks, at least for now. And I also get books (including used books) to give as gifts to others.

Life Uncluttered, I love the doctors-waiting-room approach - sort of a Bookcrossing type of thing. Have you ever considered registering with Bookcrossing and following your books' journies?

Jeri Dansky said...

Here's another comment that came in by e-mail:

I've been a BookCrosser for about 5 years. It does take some time to register and label the books, but it's fun to drop them off in random locations and see where they might travel. Some are never logged as found, but I still imagine they are being read or hoarded by another book lover with more space than I am willing to use.

I also have used the Book-ray process where a book is offered by one book-crosser and others get "in line" to read the book - it travels around the world from one to the next, each writing a comment on the website. Many BookCrossers also maintain Wish Lists. When I have a book to release, I will search the wish lists and mail it as a "Random Act of Bookcrossing Kindness" - very satisfying.

JustGail said...

When I did a clean-out of paperbacks (pre-internet times) I put them into the "donation" pile along with the outgrown clothes. I don't remember what I did when I cleared out 15-20 year-old computer science books a few years ago. Lately I've been taking in books & magazines to a local re-sale book store. I don't get a lot of money, but it's 1 stop, I don't have to deal with shipping, and for the books not even they want, they will recycle them.

My problem seems to be that most "what to do with old books" tips seem to be geared more for fiction, not books related to hobbies like cooking, needlework, gardening, etc. Part of my brain says "get rid of them" but so far, the part of my brain that says "NO, you might do (fill in with whatever hobby) again!!" usually wins.

Why is it so hard to let go of old hobbies?!?!?

Cynthia Friedlob said...

I have a regular routine: first check with Powell's, then the local used bookstore, then donate to the library for their book sale. And I'm so excited about my new, space-saving Kindle!

Debra Baida / Liberated Spaces said...

Thanks for such a great post of resources, Jeri!

I, for one, am glad to live in a with a vital (though challenged!) community of used bookstores. I try to sell books locally, and usually opt for book trade/credit, thereby keeping the money and energy local. When certain volumes are simply not desired by the store, Goodwill is my next venue. I like that I can let my once upon a time treasures become someone else's, while enabling this organization to generate much needed revenue for their programs. In case you haven't seen it, here's my blog post on book recycling at Goodwill of San Francisco, San Mateo & Marin: