How do I get rid of my book infestation?
May 31, 2011 7:29 PM   Subscribe

I have a ton (at least) of books. How to best get rid of them?

Ok, so I acquired a lot of ex-university library books. All sorts of books, most in good to excellent condition, some really old, just an overwhelming amount. Some have ex-library stamps, some don't. I am going to guess between 5-8000 books. I wanted to donate them for tax purposes, but after reading the tax laws, realized I need an appraiser to provide a certificate for items totaling over $4999. If I go with the DonateIt! values, it's way over $5k.

I am still in process of moving the books into my garage, and am a bit worried about not having enough space. I don't have an issue with finding an appraiser necessarily, but wonder how they would go about handling so many books and how much it would cost. I thought about having a massive book garage sale. I am going through the boxes and keeping the ones (very few) that I want, but there is stuff that is of value (according to

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to handle this? Or who to donate to that might be able to pick them up? Help!
posted by bolognius maximus to Grab Bag (44 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Go to craigslist. Post a job for someone to post these books up on and sell them. Pay them mind is failing. What is it called when someone gets paid based on what they sell?

CR something?
posted by hal_c_on at 7:32 PM on May 31, 2011

Commission. Jeez.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:33 PM on May 31, 2011

Ask your local library. Mine is always glad to take books and they give me a receipt for taxes. The ones they can't put into circulation get sold at the annual Friends of the Library booksale.
posted by something something at 7:34 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to add: I'm a grad student. Can't really afford to feed myself, let alone pay someone. (but the suggestion itself isn't bad!)
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:35 PM on May 31, 2011

You could sell the more expensive ones individually -- maybe pricing them out using and/or pricing & selling on something like Amazon marketplace -- and then perhaps selling the rest en masse to a local bookstore.

If you're a poor grad student, taking a tax deduction for a donation is not going to get you very much. You should sell the books.
posted by shivohum at 7:38 PM on May 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

When we had a relative pass away a few years ago, He wanted his entire music collection, plus movies, donated to the university library he had worked at. The library was happy to catalog the collection, and give us a list. They even had a special card put into everything donated, attributing it to him.

So, I would suggest that as a possible avenue for getting rid of them. Selling books on takes a large time investment.

You could check with a local used bookstore to see if they might be interested, too.
posted by annsunny at 7:39 PM on May 31, 2011

As it usually goes when you're selling off a big collection, the amount of money you'll make is directly proportionate to the effort you put into it.

Is your priority to make this as easy as possible? As fast as possible? As profitable as possible? Something else?
posted by box at 7:41 PM on May 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

There are people out there who sell books on Ebay or whatnot for a living - the library my mom volunteers at has a deal with a couple who come in once a month to look over the donated books. They sell the ones they think are worth selling and give part of the money to the library, and the library puts the rest of the books out in the annual book sale for $2 each or whatever it is they price them at.

If I knew the term for such people so you could look them up, I'd tell you, but I don't know it. You could call your local library and ask them if they know anyone like that or MeMail me and I'll let you know the particular library I'm talking about so you can call them and ask about it. You might be able to work out a similar deal.
posted by telophase at 7:43 PM on May 31, 2011

Just to add: I'm a grad student. Can't really afford to feed myself, let alone pay someone.

Well then you don't need the tax deduction. Just sell them on CL, Amazon marketplace, or ebay.
posted by rkent at 7:44 PM on May 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

I grew up in a house that was chock-full of books. Which was great, in theory, but we literally had rooms full of floor-to-ceiling bookcases full. Spilling-out-of-the-bookcases-onto-the-floor full. It was just too much, so one day my parents decided to get rid of a bunch. I know there are a lot of librarians on mefi, so maybe they'll chime in as to the why, but our public libraries (which, to be honest, sucked balls and really should have taken them) refused to take them. Schools, though, did take them. Elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, community college/votech schools, etc. They took our books, carload after carload. But not the public libraries.

That doesn't help you on the appraiser front (which is probably unnecessary for purposes of tax deduction if you're not making money much as a student), but it will help you when you ultimately need to find a place to unload them. Just call around. (If you have any picture-rich magazine (for collages!) or scientific journal (high school science departments) back issues, you should donate those, too.)
posted by phunniemee at 7:54 PM on May 31, 2011

Selling them on Amazon via their Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) feature lets you ship the books to Amazon en masse, then have Amazon pack & ship the individual books to buyers as they sell. They have this nice interface that lets you set prices and item descriptions for all of the books you're selling. You'd still be dealing with the individual books in adding them to your Amazon FBA inventory, but it removes the hassles of packing and shipping each one when they sell.
posted by mnemonic at 7:55 PM on May 31, 2011 [7 favorites]

Powell's won't give you the best deal, but they will pay to ship the books they want to buy so you don't have cash tied up in the process. Regarding the people who sell books for a living,
posted by carmicha at 8:01 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you can't pay an appraiser up front, maybe you could find one who is willing to be paid after you sell the books? Perhaps the appraiser could take a percentage?
posted by twblalock at 8:02 PM on May 31, 2011

Your local library may have a "Friends of the Library" book sale (or even book store), and they may be able to help with the appraisal.

You could also contact Housingworks Bookstore Cafe in NYC if you are within a few hours' drive -- they might be able to arrange pickup if it would be a significant donation?
posted by kestrel251 at 8:05 PM on May 31, 2011

There are organizations at the library, "friend of the library"-sort, who will take your donation and sell them at the annual book sale to raise money for the library. It's a good cause, and you may be helping some other poor student get excited about a good book. I love going to these book sale, except recently, there has been a trend of some entrepreneurial type showing up with an iPhone and book-scanning software to buy book for resale online. While I understand the monetary motivation, it does reduce the chance of stumbling upon an exciting book at the bag sale.

Perhaps, you have a smart phone, have a once-over of the books with one of these ISBN scanner apps may not be a bad idea?
posted by curiousZ at 8:05 PM on May 31, 2011

Many books are barcoded. Barcode scanning is doable with an iphone, or a a personal barcode scanner. That would help cataloging.
posted by theora55 at 8:07 PM on May 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. I have a friend (who makes a lot of money) that I was going to give the tax credit to (have the appraiser write it out in his name, etc). Selling the books individually would just be impossible. Would it be worthwhile to do a garage sale? If I did that, I would sell them for $0.50 or $1.00, and donate the rest to a library or group that would take them. I am just trying to find such a group.

curiousZ, not a bad idea, except many of these books are pre-ISBN.
posted by bolognius maximus at 8:11 PM on May 31, 2011

Response by poster: That, and I don't have a smartphone or iphone (I am still poor).
posted by bolognius maximus at 8:13 PM on May 31, 2011

You have MeMail.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:27 PM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: In your shoes, I think I would hunt down a pal who knew enough to help me sort them a little bit, and I would give the friend some of the finds for the help, eBay the truly-valuables, and have a bunch of garage sales with the rest. Bonus if they could be sorted into 25c-50c-$1-$2-$5 boxes. Advertise on CL and bulletin boards about your thousands of books, sit there and sell lemonade, collect a few hundred every time you do it.

Alternatively: ask around for the name of a trusted crazy old book guy, have him come over and cherry-pick and write you a cheque. Then garage sale them very cheaply, then freecycle off the remaining chaff.

(This is from somebody who has disposed of books, but who is not American and doesn't know how advantageous the tax write-offs for donating are; we don't get that with donated goods in Canada -- pity!)
posted by kmennie at 8:31 PM on May 31, 2011

To get you started on the tax end of things for weighing donating vs. selling: If you're in the US, a grad student, not on your parents' tax returns, you'll need to exceed the standard deduction for your book donation to matter. For 2011, that number is $5,800 for a single filer, $11,600 for married filing jointly. If you think your itemized deductions (with the book donation) are >> than the amount you'd make selling them, donating might be worthwhile. If not, definitely go the sell route.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:37 PM on May 31, 2011

Sorry, that calculation should be:

If [itemized deductions with the book donation] - [standard deduction] >> [$ you'd make selling books]
...then donating might be worthwhile. If it's not a significant difference or you can't exceed the standard deduction for 2011, sell 'em.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:41 PM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: Oh, folks, please don't assume your local library wants this stuff. At my library, we found out that it cost us a lot more to take gifts than just to refuse them outright. People rarely understand this, but the staff time in sorting through so many books that we can't use (already in the collection; in bad shape) is never as much as we get in selling them. So we end up losing money when we accept gift books.

And if many of these are ex-library books, a library probably doesn't want them back.

Check with your local library, but oftentimes you are not doing them any favors by giving them old books.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:54 PM on May 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

Most of the non-profits I've encountered around here either ask you what the donation is worth or leave the value line blank. $1/book is probably a reasonable estimate.
posted by aniola at 9:00 PM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: Be seriously careful about putting these into a garage sale. Go through them carefully first. My sister pulled Voyage of the Dawn Treader off a shelf in her church library last week and found a first edition from Great Britain, that will probably be worth several hundred dollars. Then she found 2 more in the series. And then a few American first editions.

Not all old books are valuable. But some are. :-)
posted by SLC Mom at 9:18 PM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: I'm voting for the garage sale. Advertise the -hell- out of this, probably two weeks in advance. Shouldn't be that difficult/expensive to print out a basic flier, make copies, and put these up in all sorts of places.

For example, google map the following:
- a number of your public libraries (if you're in a decent sized city, you should have at least two)
- colleges (make sure to hit their community building / food court / library)
- around town (telephone poles, etc.)
- churches
- post office
- privately owned businesses
- coffee shops
- other local bookstores (if they're willing to have a little competition or go shopping for used books they can sell at higher prices)
- hell, I'd even put them in willing hair dressers and tattoo shops if they have a place to post such things.
posted by DisreputableDog at 9:19 PM on May 31, 2011

Oh, and while I dislike double posting, I note that if you don't have the benefit of a large city, you SO need to travel to nearby towns / nearest largest city'm going to say a 25 to 30 mile radius, if you can. If you're a one library, one post office, one Wal*mart kind of town, draw a radius around your house go crazy with the fliers!

Good luck! I'm interested to know how this goes - god, I'd love to be at a 5,000+ book sale if I could. I'd probably pass out.
posted by DisreputableDog at 9:24 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you at a university with a library science school? A program with a rare books concentration would be best and a faculty advisor would be able to give you some ideas.

You might be able to get a lib sci grad student with a background in selling books/conservation/appraisal to help you catalog what you have and identify the books of value.

Garage sale: not a good idea. Book people will descend on your house and cherry pick the most valuable books and then offer you a $1.00 each. Who knows what you will be giving away?

I also sent a memail with additional suggestions.
posted by mlis at 9:50 PM on May 31, 2011

It's not certain that your local Friends of the Library would want these books either. I volunteered to sort donations at a huge county library book sale this spring and it had a long list of book-types that immediately went into the trash bins to be pulped. Textbooks more than 5? years old were on that list. (Sadly too were travel guides so I missed adding to my collection of guidebooks published in the 1950s.) This was a suburban/rural area though without any nearby colleges.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:53 PM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: When I was in a similar position, I donated several boxes of discarded university library books to Books for Africa. You can send them media mail, so postage isn't too expensive.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:40 PM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: My mother sold an old vintage Baha'i book that a friend gave her a decade ago for a little over a thousand dollars through eBay. List every book online after checking both eBay and Amazon. Don't use fulfilled by amazon since you might run into storage fees (I think).
posted by JesseBikman at 11:44 PM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: If you really want the tax cut, can you donate half this year and half next year? That should keep you under the $5000 limit so you don't need an appraisal.
posted by lollusc at 11:47 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, maybe this would help?
posted by JesseBikman at 11:48 PM on May 31, 2011

(I am still poor).

Then, as rkent points out, you probably aren't going to want to itemize. You're barely going to pay income taxes anyway, what with the standard deduction and personal exemption. So the incentive to get the full credit for this is pretty low.

But the appraisal is only required for a noncash donation of more than $5000. If you donate this in several chunks, either to different donees in one year or to a single donee over several, you can stay under that threshold.
posted by valkyryn at 2:47 AM on June 1, 2011

If you're garage-saling them, towards the end you can do the "fill a bag for a dollar" thing to clear out the piles a bit.
posted by slightlybewildered at 2:58 AM on June 1, 2011

Nthing sell them on Amazon. Your objection seems to be based on the idea of selling them all at once - you don't have to do this. Just pick out around 50 or so of the ones that have ISBNs, list them, and see how you go before you make a decision on the rest.
posted by hazyjane at 4:27 AM on June 1, 2011

Best answer: I just remembered hearing about this site on a podcast recently: AbundaTrade. They will give you cash for your used books and if you have over $50 worth, they'll pay for shipping, too.
posted by something something at 5:34 AM on June 1, 2011


I don't really understand your objective here. Just to get rid of them? To make money? To make money without investing any time in making it?
posted by J. Wilson at 5:52 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You need a professional. Most if not all of them are worthless; some may be valuable. It will take you forever

There are people who scour used book sales to sell on Amazon. (See for a fascinating ). Maybe you can advertise on Craiglist for someone like that. And decent used bookstores will be able to advise you.

But really, don't expect too much. Remember, they're ex-library for a reason.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:44 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Assuming your location info in your profile is still correct, you do have a "friends of the library" group in your town:

Friends of the West Lafayette Public Library, 208 West Columbia Street, West Lafayette, Indiana 47906; email "".

Seems to me it's at least worth a call to see if they want a crack at your books as a whole before taking more arduous measures. Our friends of the library group (Ithaca, NY) is always pretty eager for anything that isn't a textbook, encyclopedia, or magazine, and they stamp or sign receipts certifying counts of different types of books, which you or your friend can then use for tax deductions.

I would be wary of the garage sale route myself. People will pick at the best stuff, offer you minuscule amounts for it (people rarely want to pay more than 50 cents for a book at a garage sale, in my experience) and you'll likely still be left with the totally worthless stuff that'll be even more difficult to unload on anyone.
posted by aught at 7:52 AM on June 1, 2011

Best answer: Amazon also don't charge a fee until the book sells, unlike eBay. The downside is they'll still be living at your house until they do. fort?
posted by mippy at 8:10 AM on June 1, 2011

Best answer: If you would like to donate, perhaps you could donate to a community whose library has just burned down. That was a link to a community in Canada, but there may be others closer to you.

It's true that you would need to pay the shipping costs, but perhaps you could work with another donor on that.

Also: jails might accept at least some of the books.
posted by Amy NM at 11:55 AM on June 1, 2011

Another possibility, if you're near one, is Half Price Books. Half Price is where we sold our books when we've moved and we've always been very satisfied with our experiences there.

They will offer on large lots; you can also separate out the gems and either sell them separately on one of the suggested web sites, or get a separate offer from Half Price. You'll get less for cash than trade, but it might be worth it for the large lot to forgo the hassle of dealing with eBay or Amazon or Craigslist.
posted by immlass at 11:32 AM on June 2, 2011

If some of the relatively value-less ones are paperbacks (especially if they're recent genre fiction), you might send them to Books for Women in Prison. Again, you'd have to pay postage yourself, but it's a great cause and they're likely to want the books that other people don't (e.g. self-help, "daily affirmations," etc.).
posted by dizziest at 10:13 AM on June 4, 2011

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