What is a good way to get rid of textbooks?
February 25, 2014 7:34 AM   Subscribe

I have just moved and am in the process of unpacking my things. I have far more books than my space allows and would like to get rid of old university textbooks that I haven't looked at in years and that are now woefully out of date. Are there some ways of repurposing them other than recycling? Would a university used bookstore or general used bookstore find some use for a 10+ year old textbook? Are there other more creative ways of reusing them?

I live in Waterloo, ON, if anyone has specific recommendations.
posted by jamincan to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Books for Africa.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:37 AM on February 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

An old roommate was able to get rid of a lot of textbooks via Paperbackswap. Even older ones - he was a grad student and was working in his university library, and would snap up the books the library was just going to get rid of and list them on PBS and they'd find homes pretty quickly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 AM on February 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Generally they'll be worth nothing to be honest. Look on Amazon or Powells buy back but otherwise Goodwill.
posted by k8t at 7:46 AM on February 25, 2014

If you're handy you could try making furniture or repurposing in some way
posted by lasamana at 7:46 AM on February 25, 2014

You can carve out the center and make secret hiding place books. No one is going to pull an old bio textbook off your shelf to browse, so it's basically Fort Knox. (If you have any tweenage kids in your life, this makes a great gift.)
posted by phunniemee at 8:00 AM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could you donate to a library? Are they out of date based on the copyright year or is it more the information has changed? For example, if it's a math book--it's math. If it's a history book, perhaps just find a better recycling method.
posted by stormpooper at 8:03 AM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do make sure none of them are editions currently in use before donating or repurposing--while in general textbooks do get printed in new editions every few years thereby devaluing the older editions, there are exceptions that may have somewhat more resale value. (For example, this physical chemistry text, which was published in 1997 and is still the most recent edition, as far as I can tell; it was the text I used in a course in 2008.)
posted by beryllium at 8:06 AM on February 25, 2014

Please do not donate them to a library (said the librarian).

I would donate them to a homeless shelter/women's shelter/prison library.
posted by Riverine at 8:08 AM on February 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Could you donate to a library?

It may depend on location, but here in New Hampshire textbooks are the one thing the library explicitly refuses to ever accept as a donation.
posted by yerfatma at 8:09 AM on February 25, 2014

I had a hell of a time getting rid of textbooks that were only 1 or 2 editions out of date, a few years after undergrad when I realized I didn't need them anymore.

Anything with nice pictures (photos or illustrations) could be donated to shelters, daycares, or after-school programs to be cut up for art projects.

You can also check with teachers at your local high schools to see if they want to use the textbooks in any way as a supplement to their own materials - science teachers might be able to use additional photos or illustrations from your books when explaining new concepts, or AP teachers might create a "college-level" library for their more ambitious students to explore.

Anything that definitely doesn't change much (math, chemistry, Newtonian physics, English lit, etc.) can probably be sold for a very modest amount on ebay, half.com, or other sites.

Anything that deals with a rapidly changing field is, sadly, not worth the paper it's printed on any longer. Short of fun projects like the secret hiding place carve-out mentioned above, simple recycling might be your best bet.
posted by trivia genius at 8:15 AM on February 25, 2014

I see that other librarians have already chimed in. Please call before dropping them off at a library. My public library specifically will NOT accept textbooks - even current ones. I also have worked at a university library and we did NOT accept textbooks there either. If a professor wanted to have a current textbook on reserve, that was up to him or her to provide.


"Out of date" can mean vastly different things depending on the subject of the textbook. For example, a 10-year-old textbook on Latin might still be cutting edge...while a 10-year-old textbook on Computer Science would be useful as campfire kindling. Consider this when deciding whether or not it's worth it to try and re-sell.
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:16 AM on February 25, 2014

I recently sold a bunch of 10+ year old textbooks on Amazon. I was astonished at getting rid of any, let alone most, of them.
posted by Sheppagus at 8:26 AM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bridge to Asia
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:29 AM on February 25, 2014

Our library would donate the books we didn't want anymore to Better World Books. They take textbooks dated from 1995 or later and if you donate 3+ books, they'll pay for you to ship it to them.
posted by PearlRose at 9:34 AM on February 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you want to sell them, Bigwords.com may take them. Look them up by ISBN there.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 9:37 AM on February 25, 2014

It's worth listing them on your used book selling site of choice. I have a small child very into biology and highly elaborate illustrations, so we snap up $5 textbooks from 10 years ago for him. (His favorite is a surgeon's anatomy from 1997 or so ... eyeballs don't really change much. The book is like $180 new which, hahahahahahaha no, he's four.) People buy old textbooks for a lot of reasons -- they're curious about the topic, that's the text they had in college and had to get rid of when moving but want back for sentimental reasons, they think they can get away with using an old edition, they're homeschooling, they're going to bastardize your books into crafts (especially if it has nice pictures) ... lots of reasons.

List it for a penny lower than the lowest price listed for your edition in your quality, and it'll sell pretty quickly. I've gotten rid of the most useless textbooks I can't imagine anyone wanting that way! (They also tend to go pretty quickly at garage sales. No idea why.)

Turning them into book safes is pretty fun, and I've actually seen a lot of those for sale on etsy. In college I spent an evening watching TV and turning a Russian textbook into an illicit poptart library smuggling device that served me well for four years. You might turn one or two that you're fond of into book safes and send the rest onwards.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:38 AM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've bought/swapped for some ancient books (not textbooks per se) via both Better World Books and PaperBackSwap. Nthing both those suggestions. If you have a local major rummage or white elephant fundraiser that includes a book tent, that is also a surprisingly effective way for books to go on to new readers.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:44 AM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I vote for the recycle bin.
Old textbooks are old and out of date.
posted by Flood at 10:42 AM on February 25, 2014

Try BookScouter to see if you can get any money for them (I hope it works in Canada, I'm in the U.S.).
posted by jabes at 10:57 AM on February 25, 2014

Here's another one to add to lasamana's list of ideas: Invisible Bookshelf.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:30 AM on February 25, 2014

Last summer I used a bunch of old textbooks and tech books as firewood in my dad's outdoor fire pit. It made me feel like an antagonist in Fahrenheit 451. However, nobody will take these books besides Goodwill, and they don't really want them, either.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 11:33 AM on February 25, 2014

I had some older (but still classics in the field) engineering and physics texts that I was planning to get rid of and my manager set up a shelf in the office to house them as a sort of group library.
posted by doctord at 12:14 PM on February 25, 2014

Please do not donate them to Goodwill or any other thrift store that supports a charity. It ends up costing the charity money to get rid of them. Kinda undermining the whole "donating to support your cause" thing.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:00 PM on February 25, 2014

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