What to Do with Old Books: Responsible and Sustainable Advice

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 to 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 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 have any value. Although book 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 see 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 the article to learn why old books smell so good.

If valuable, Reuse

Sell used books

To declutter a book quickly, you can just sell it. 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.


Sell your #books at the best price with BookScouter.com!📚➡️💸 P.S. video created by dabblewithdimples on Instagram 🔥#booktok #booktiktok #sellbooksonline #decluttering #resellbooks #makemoneyonline

♬ original sound – BookScouter

Donate used books

You might not want to sell books and earn on them (or the gain is too little, so it’s not worth the hustle), but there are several ways to donate used books to get rid of them.

sell back your books for more

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! Do not hesitate to bring your old books to the local library, significantly since this will help you to get rid of a large amount of books and clean the shelves.

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 ensure your literature finds a new home. Check if your local Goodwill accepts books.

Give away used books

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 books. Be mindful of the practice in your region. We have a detailed guide on where to recycle textbooks.

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 you are confused, find the nearest recycling center and drop off your books there.

Here are the ultimate basics of what to do with old books. Undoubtedly, there are many other options, so feel free to read our guide on what to do with old textbooks.