What's the easiest and quickest way to get rid of hundreds of books?
May 19, 2012 6:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving in about ten days, I'm disabled, and my mother (who is in her mid-sixties) is here helping me pack. I've got four of five hundred books, mostly paperbacks and mostly genre fiction, about which I'm finally being sensible and eliminating. The problem we're having is that it's almost as much trouble to get rid of these as it would have been to pack them.

It sort of makes me sick to my stomach to throw them in the trash, but I will if I have to. However, I'm on a second-floor apartment and it's a good distance to the trash, so that's not trivial, either. An aunt is the HR person at the women's shelter here and she wants to take some of the hardbacks, though I think she might be overwhelmed by how many I have.

Would craigslist work well? Could I just say that people could come and look through the big plastic tubs we've filled with books, leave the tubs on my porch, and let people get what they want? Or would they be put off by them being all jumbled and, worse, scatter them about and upsetting my neighbors?

I've the impression that used bookstores almost don't exist anymore and those that do are very picky about what they will take.

We can't be available to answer inquiries from those interested in the books and anything that is time and labor intensive isn't really an option because there's a lot more to be packed and we can't devote much effort to disposing of these books. But at the moment, they're taking up both space and packing materials that we need to use for, you know, packing and moving.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you are in the US, Vietnam Vets of America may be able to do a free pick up. Salvation Army offers a similar service.
posted by spunweb at 6:40 PM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've gotten rid of books via Craigslist-- it went extremely smoothly. (A little too smoothly; I was careless, and I think lost a box of technical books in the process...)

Just put an ad up, put your books out, and they'll probably disappear fairly quickly.
posted by darth_tedious at 6:40 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and used bookstores DO exist, but won't do a pick up.
posted by spunweb at 6:41 PM on May 19, 2012

I would bundle them by genre, maybe about 40-50 books per lot. Post them on Craigslist and Freecycle, and state clearly that the taker has to take the whole lot. I've seen ads that basically say "Please take this whole lot, keep what you like, and sell/give away the rest." Maybe put a couple of titles/authors per lot in your post, so that people have a bit of an idea what's in each bundle.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 6:42 PM on May 19, 2012 [11 favorites]

I got rid of lots of similar books by posting on freecycle. Also, you might check to see if there is a lot of book crossing activity near you-- of course, you wouldn't want to release all those books yourself, but maybe by posting to the bookcrossing twitter feed you could find someone willing to pick them up?
posted by instamatic at 6:43 PM on May 19, 2012

Thrift stores. Call your local Salvation Army store and ask if they'll do pick-ups of a large number of books. They often do so for furniture; I can't see why this would be any different.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:52 PM on May 19, 2012

The friends of the library in your region does a book sale and has a list of the types of books that they would take. They likely do not pick up but you might be able to swing a freecycle "Take them all, donate the rest to the library" situation which would be preferable to tossing them.
posted by jessamyn at 6:59 PM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Donate them to Better World Books.

Simply print out the shipping labels and post them off. If you have a lot of books there is an email address to contact. There is a list of sorts of books they won't accept (which isn't many) and they have to be in good clean condition.

All for a a good cause
posted by wwax at 7:00 PM on May 19, 2012 [10 favorites]

Where do you live? In Chicago, there are a couple of local orgs that will come and pick up books.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:07 PM on May 19, 2012

Used bookstores still exist, but (at least in my area) they'll only pay for hardbacks --- paperbacks, if they take them at all, will rarely get you more than store credit.

Seconding donate them: the Friends of (your local) Library probably hold somewhat regular fundraising booksales; lots of shelters or local jails might accept them; the American Association of University Women, at least around here, might sell them to raise funds for scholarships --- ditto a lot of churches, preschools, veterans' organizations, or groups with mission schools in third-world countries.
posted by easily confused at 7:10 PM on May 19, 2012

Lots of times used bookstores have a free box.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:13 PM on May 19, 2012

The local VA hospital here specifically wants genre fiction paperbacks - I'd try veterans' groups first, as they tend to have able-bodied volunteers.
posted by SMPA at 7:14 PM on May 19, 2012

Not sure if this applies (I'm Canadian) but the local library may take donations.
posted by Hawk V at 7:32 PM on May 19, 2012

If you want to make a few bucks, at least call a local used bookstore. In your area page1book.com is listed as the best used bookstore in your local entertainment website (I found online). They know your area market and can give you some advice. They may take some or all. They might come in and take them all away, with all their own labor, and leave you a few bucks, then they would donate the ones they don't want however you want. Might and may, but it's possible. That place looks like it was a good bookstore and it is having hard times now too. You may have just the collection it needs - or not - but you could find out.
posted by caclwmr4 at 7:55 PM on May 19, 2012

Half Price will give you at least a few bucks and will take all of them off your hands at once (even the ones they aren't going to put out for sale).

Or, you could sell via Craigslist (people will definitely be willing to come look through the bins - if you set a time when a group of browsers are welcome, especially) and then Freecycle the rest.
posted by batmonkey at 8:06 PM on May 19, 2012

Nthing Freecycle and Craigslist -- I had a great experience getting rid of a few hundred paperbacks by bundling them by genre in plastic grocery bags, 6-10 to a bag, and tying the bags shut to dissuade people from pawing through and scattering them, etc. I left them on my porch, made my posts, and they were all gone within 24 hours.
posted by shamash at 8:11 PM on May 19, 2012

I got rid of boxes and boxes of books of all varieties via Freecycle. Even had someone carry them down three flights of stairs as a pre-requisite.

Freecyclers are completely flaky, though, so be sure to have plenty of time to retry.
posted by rr at 8:30 PM on May 19, 2012

Freecycle and goodwill donations
posted by gt2 at 9:52 PM on May 19, 2012

Just a note about offering things for free: my brother out-law had a working fridge that he wanted gone; he offered it free on craigslist and maybe freecycle and got nothing but flakes. When he reposted the ad saying the fridge would go to the first person who turned up with a loaf of good beer, a guy turned up within the hour. So maybe offer to trade for something that's not money, but still has some value to you. People are funny.
posted by rtha at 10:35 PM on May 19, 2012 [8 favorites]

You could contact your local BookCrossers www.bookcrossing.com and someone will probably be pleased to take them and give them away on your behalf.
posted by LyzzyBee at 2:23 AM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you have a half price books franchise in your area? If you can get your books to one of their stores, they will a) help you bring the books in from your car b) pay you some money for your books (not a lot, but hey--it's better than nothing, right!?) and c) won't make you lug all the books they don't want back out to your car. They'll donate them to charity instead, I believe.

There's also: d) You get to wander about the store looking at/poking through tons of interesting books while you wait for them to make an offer. The downside is that you're trying to get rid of books, not add more to your collection, of course. But it's a good way to pass the time!
posted by Estraven at 3:19 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have twice taken loads/lots of books posted on craigslist. The owner posted and said I have x number of boxes of books, and they are mostly in these categories, but they are mixed. Must take all.

I took them all, kept most of them, and sold the ones I didn't want to a used bookstore, or gave them away. A win for everyone.

Some used bookstore owners/dealers will come to your house if you have a large lot of books you're willing to dispose of very cheaply, and they are in good condition, especially if you have a few hardbacks. But they will not take everything, only what they think they can make a profit on, which would likely leave you with quite a few. I know several people who moved house who used this method.
posted by thelastcamel at 6:56 AM on May 20, 2012

You read a lot. Box (or doublebag in paper groc. bags, not too full) them by genre and by paper or hardcover. Call your local used bookstores and ask if you can get credit for them. Old books gone, credit for new books = you win. Otherwise, Craigslist free section and/or freecycle.com. When I moved, I gave away all sorts of stuff on freecycle and it was easy and kind of fun.
posted by theora55 at 12:26 PM on May 20, 2012

It sounds like your main problem may be the physical transporting of the books out of the apartment? In that case, you may have luck with a local volunteer group. Your local church/Boy Scout/Girl Scout Troop/ might love working toward a community service badge/good karma by doing the schlepping of the books to a used bookstore or charity. Teen and older volunteers could help sort the books, too. Call a bunch of spots, and the first one to respond gets the good karma! You would be quite reasonable in asking for help; books are heavy!

Agreeing with previous posters, you'll have more follow-through from people if there's a small price attached to the items. I've given away many things on craigslist, and that "Free" category has the worst follow through and most time-wasting emails.
posted by BigJen at 2:18 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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