Should you own physical books or at least some hard copies of your favorite novels? Or is it more sensible to sell used books and switch to ebooks? There is no right or wrong here, and this guide will help you review available options. You will learn about possible “use case” scenarios for various types of physical books — from coffee table volumes to expensive college textbooks. It is up to you to decide which option makes the most sense for you!

Keep it hard or discard? 

Should you keep all the hard copies? It depends on the type of books you own, your leisure and professional needs, and your reading habits. We suggest you arrange the books you own in a few categories: coffee table and interior books, textbooks, reference materials, fiction and nonfiction, comics and periodicals. Think about possible “use cases” for each type of book you have (you can find some tips below). 

Then ask yourself: “is it probable that I’ll need to look into Human Anatomy again?” If not, you should think of getting rid of it, and BookScouter will help you sell used books. For example, for a mentioned volume of Human Anatomy you can get almost $100!

You don’t have to be so pragmatic about every book you own. It is OK to have a sentimental attachment to books: a shabby volume of Dickens can be memorabilia of significant periods of your life or family history. 

Books on your shelf stand for your choices, your personal path as a reader and a human — your biography can be written just by looking at the books you’ve encountered so far! So don’t zealously follow Marie Kondo’s infamous advice from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The guru of keeping things in order has advised owning no more than 30 physical books in your library — and this tip infuriated many bookworms!

You might also consider switching to ebooks, and that’s excellent! However, digital copies can easily perish (since their presence on your device can be revoked by the seller), while hard copies are not so easily distractible. Although digital books are highly convenient, remember that there are still some voices saying that reading a hard copy is more beneficial. Make sure you can overcome some of the cons of ebooks! 

Reference materials

If we were back in the 1990s, then definitely yes — keep your precious reference books! Reference materials like dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks would be almost the only place where you could check the spelling, read a description of a phenomenon, or find a bibliographic reference. The only other option would be to call a knowledgeable friend or relative.

Nowadays, most dictionaries are available online for free; moreover, they are regularly updated. Therefore, unless a reference book is indeed exceptional and professional (like the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine) you can save some space by selling reference books back.

But it is also totally fine if you prefer to leaf through a book in search of a reference instead of googling it — own physical books and enjoy the process!

Coffee table books 

These are all the books that are exciting to hold in your hands, that look good on your table, and can enhance your interior design. They usually offer good quality illustrations and exquisite cover designs. Not all items in your collection of physical books should be serving a practical purpose — some are there just to be enjoyed!

a student reading physical books
Designed by Freepik

Used textbooks

Whether to keep used textbooks or not depends only on your curriculum. Here are some useful questions to consider: will this subject appear again? Do you need this college book for a subsequent examination? Can this textbook be used after graduation, when you start practicing? Here is a detailed discussion on why it can be helpful to keep your textbooks.

Nevertheless, don’t forget that used textbooks are incredibly valuable on the market! You can sell used books back for an excellent price, and BookScouter will help you find the best offer.

Fiction books

Face the hard truth — we rarely reread fiction books. Of course, there are exceptions, like you might be really into a particular author or a book (or you might major in literature). Anyway, the decision of keeping fiction books or not should be based exclusively on your personality, reading habits, and book space availability. 

Even if you don’t read some books again, you can leaf through them or reread your favorite moment when your mood is low. You can take a random book and read a few pages, as a kind of fortune-telling. Just by glimpsing at book covers, you can recreate their plots in your memory and enjoy them once more. If you own physical copies of your favorite books, you can lend them to your friends!

If any of these experiences are valuable for you, think twice before getting rid of hard copies in yet another attempt to declutter.  However, keep in mind that you can rent books from a library (Libby app is of great help). While your local library might not have highly specialized literature, they’d surely have Scandinavian Noir or Edith Wharton’s novels.

a bookshelf full of physical books and used textbooks
Designed by Freepik

Nonfiction and self-help used books

Self-help books are designed in a way that you have to regularly get back to them if you want to achieve a positive effect. They are usually full of multiple exercises that you should include in your daily routine, and having a physical copy of that book is really quite handy. 

Whenever you feel stuck again, you can reach out to a book that worked for you, browse through your own notes and highlights to grasp the most moving sentences. Treat them as motivation pills.

Although you might think you’ve embraced all the postulates of Getting Things Done, Atomic Habits, and Peak Performance, you might find it useful to come back to them. Remember my word! 

Periodicals and comic books

Unless you’re doing collages and mood boards made out of colorful pictures cut from glamorous magazines, most of the journals can be discarded without much sentiment. However, you can be keen on keeping your whole yearly collection of The Atlantic or Psychology Today — and it’s fantastic! Moreover, many journals do not depend on the momentary agenda and can be enjoyed at any time.

If you’re into comic books, I’m pretty sure that they are such a treasure for you that you would never want to part with them!  

What’s the takeaway? If, after reading this guide, you find it sensible to keep physical books — go for it! There is much pleasure in owning them! Otherwise, BookScouter helps you sell used textbooks and other kinds of books for the best price! Check this extensive roadmap on how to sell used books.