What's the best way to get rid of old, outdated tech / web books?
April 30, 2008 1:01 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to get rid of old, outdated tech / web books?

Like everyone who works on the internets I have lots and lots of books that have either outgrown their usefulness or become obsolete with time.

Obviously one route to dispose of these is to recycle them, but I'm wondering if there are any other novel, earth-friendly ways to get rid of these books.

Other ideas I've had include donating them to a library or school or turning them into incredibly uncomfortable furniture. Er, maybe not that last one.

Any suggestions?
posted by theNonsuch to Technology (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by pontouf at 1:08 PM on April 30, 2008

DO NOT DONATE THEM TO A LIBRARY. This just usually means that other people in less good shape than you will have to take your books to the recycling center themselves.

That said, if there are local community technology centers, you might want to call them and see if they have a need for outdated tech books. I teach basic tech instruction and books on, for example, Office 2003 or Windows 2000 would still be useful take home books to give to my students. For books that really have no utility, such as old romances or falling apart paperbacks, I seriously tell people to soak them in parrafin and give them away as firestarters. At least then they'll be useful.
posted by jessamyn at 1:11 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

You could always make a bunch of book safes. A bookshelf full of book safes/boxes would be pretty cool.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 1:12 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

There are book buyback sites on the internets, but if the books are outdated they may be less desirable.
posted by mrnutty at 1:12 PM on April 30, 2008

If they're not glossy paper you can shred them and put them in the compost bin, though you need to keep the balance of materials in it appropriate.
posted by phearlez at 1:14 PM on April 30, 2008

I like the book safe idea and there's a plethora of instructables on how to do it.
posted by phearlez at 1:15 PM on April 30, 2008

How many endtables do you (or your friends) need?
posted by carrienation at 1:17 PM on April 30, 2008

If you've got an artistic side, you could take them apart and make "art books" from them, either using the covers on notebooks you could make or by cutting pieces out and putting other things in. You could try it on at least one or two of them, if they're useless to others. And of course you'd recycle any waste from the projects! In fact, mail one or two of them to me and I'll do it and post it to Projects. :)
posted by brina at 1:18 PM on April 30, 2008

"Books are the original insulator. A shelf of books along an outside wall works well to prevent heat escaping," says Joel Rickett. "If all the books were removed from the homes in Britain, our energy bills would rocket."
posted by kidbritish at 1:19 PM on April 30, 2008

I like the library idea personally. But maybe because my library has barely any tech books. It's sad.
posted by banished at 1:27 PM on April 30, 2008

2nding brina. My wife had to do an altered book project for a class, and she loved it. That may not be practical for your entire collection, but doing one or two could be a good creative outlet.

It's sorta like scrapbooking on steroids, allowed to run amok in already-printed books.
posted by owtytrof at 1:41 PM on April 30, 2008

I have several Zope, Homesite, and PHP4 books keeping my otherwise too-low desk from crunching on my knees.
posted by roue at 1:47 PM on April 30, 2008

I would not donate to the library, for the reason stated above. Post it to freecycle or craigslist. Someone will want them for one reason or another.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:56 PM on April 30, 2008

I think you need to consider carefully whether the topic/software is still relevant and in use. Windows 2000 books are probably still marginally useful; a Word 2000 book somewhat less so due to the smaller remaining installed base; books on abandonware DOS apps (unless you have the install disks as well)? Probably no value.

You might want to try selling them on Half.com for some very low value, like a penny, and see if anyone is interested enough in them to pay the postage. If they didn't move in the space of a few months, I'd feel a lot better about using them for compost/firestarters/guinea-pig-chew-toys. (Okay that last idea is probably bad, due to all the chemicals in the books. Don't feed them to animals.)

And you might make a list of them and email it to people who are involved with IT education, especially people using older hardware (community education type programs, probably not formal courses that are going to have big equipment/software budgets).

The only books that I'd really say have value despite their subject matter being obsolete are ones that are packaged with full retail copies of the software, or that you have disks for. In that case (software+book), there might be people who still want it. But if it's just the book ... I'd recycle and not feel bad about it in the slightest.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:10 PM on April 30, 2008

Here in Australia, various non-profits and community orgs hold book sales as fundraisers. There are often outdated tech books being sold by the bucketload. Consider donating them there.
posted by divabat at 2:14 PM on April 30, 2008

There are people (like me, unfortunately) who love all techy books no matter how outdated they are. Somewhere out there (craigslist, eBay, whatever), there is a person who would love to take those books off your hands for a nominal (or nil) cost. That's the ultimate recycling as far as I'm concerned and the very technology that the books are about is what enables the books to be sent far and wide to an appreciative home.
posted by dg at 8:20 PM on April 30, 2008

On the donation front, check to see if there's an NPower branch in your area. They do technology training for nonprofit orgs and many have small lending libraries. They may or may not be able to use your books, depending on just how obsolete they are (i.e. The Internet for Dummies circa 1998, not so much). Many nonprofits use out-of-date software for something, so obsolete books can be helpful.

On the selling front, if you sell them for a penny, make sure the money you get actually pays for shipping the books. With tech books, the less the book sells for, the more it seems to weigh. It's easy to make $2.50 in shipping fees and pay $4.00 in shipping, even via Media Mail. And, it's surprising what some seemingly obsolete books are worth.

Nobody seems to like the library idea, however... your library might actually want them if it does book sales and doesn't frown on selling tech books. Mine takes pretty much everything and sells tons at their yearly sales. Even funky old text books and technology books. Can't hurt to call them.
posted by whitelight at 8:20 PM on April 30, 2008

I am an author and at one point had several cases of unused books (on networking) to give away. They weren't obsolete yet and were still selling for $20-40 a copy at Barnes & Noble.

Libraries were a dead end. Some got mad at me for offering a donation, others made me fill out 3 pages of paperwork and then accepted a maximum of one copy of each book. Not a single one was grateful or helpful about it, and only a couple gave me a polite "no thanks." I've frankly been much less a fan of libraries since then.

My high school alma mater, on the other hand, was VERY happy to get the donation and I ended up giving them several boxes of books and some surplus equipment for an after-school computer class.

So try high schools and community schools. When that fails I just give them to a charity thrift shop, who can at least make a buck or two with them.
posted by mmoncur at 6:00 AM on May 1, 2008

You could get into papermaking. Shred the books up and make paper out of them. You could include little unshreded bits of the covers, the way some papermakers include bits of flowers.
posted by yohko at 8:35 AM on May 1, 2008

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