It is crucial to know what to do with old books if you want to keep up with sustainable living and declutter regularly. Actually, this problem pertains not only to books and old magazines but also all kinds of your possessions. While it’s common knowledge that we can sell or give away our clothing or furniture on Craigslist and eBay, how should you dispose of the old books? 

As you know, the first R in the rule is about reusing. 

The first thing you need to know is whether the books you have retained any value. Although recycling is obviously a good solution, it should be your almost last resort: make sure that nobody else is interested in this book. Your Calculus textbook is of no interest to you, but it might be helpful to some other students, and they might even want to buy it from you! 

Here is a small chart that we will explicate below.

what to do with old books infographics

Check the Value

You can try to speculate if anybody might need your books, but the surest way to know this is to check on BookScouter. Type in the title or ISBN of your book and have a look if any vendor wants to buy it from you (or you can use an app with a bar-code scanner, for iOS and Android). If there are many offers, most probably, your book is valuable, and it would be a pity to dispose of it without giving it a chance to be reused. Of course, it also depends on your books’ condition. 

If there are no offers, your book is probably of no interest. There are multiple reasons for that: new editions have appeared in the meanwhile, or there is simply no demand for it. Well, even if you don’t want to use this old book, you can smell it at least! Are you also addicted to old books? Check this article to learn why they smell so good.

If valuable, Reuse 


Don’t close BookScouter just yet. Since there are vendors willing to buy this book, why don’t you sell it to them? Choose the most valuable option (mind different shipping options — they differ from vendor to vendor), ship the book, and get your money. 


You might not want to sell books and earn on them (or the gain is too little, so it’s not worth the hustle), there are several donation options. 

Give to a local library

You’ve been using your library for quite a while. Now it’s time to give back and replenish their collection!

Donate to Goodwill 

Many communities and individuals are in need of books (care homes and prisons are just some of them), and you can donate to them directly. You can also contribute to Goodwill to make sure your literature finds a new home. Check if your local Goodwill accepts books

Give away

Finally, always ask your friends and broader network — maybe somebody will be interested in your book garage sale! 

If not valuable, Recycle

It is somewhat tricky to recycle old books. We deliver some guidance based on guidelines published by earth911, but be mindful of the practice in your region. 

Books can go with mixed paper, but only if you remove a hardcover. It seems that softcover is not a problem. If your books have been heavily damaged by water, they can’t be recycled. The only way left is to dispose of them with your household waste.

However, if confused, find the nearest recycling center and drop off your books there.  

Here are the ultimate basics of what to do with old books. There are undoubtedly many other ways, and it’s up to you to explore this topic even further.