The discussion about what to do with your old books & ARCs is not a new one, but it seems to be an on-going one. For bloggers, book reviewers, and authors — and book hoarders in general — the issue of purging old books from our collections is a constant struggle.
I mean, firstly, we don’t generally WANT to get rid of books. But then, we also want to be able to walk through our hallways. So, you know. Occasionally some books have to go. If you’re just getting rid of finished books, the task is easier: you can sell your old/used books back to certain retailers or donate them to a thrift store.
If you’re looking to get rid of ARCs, it becomes a little trickier. You see, all ARCs (or Advanced Review Copies) come with one thing on common: the words “NOT FOR SALE” slapped across the front of them in big, bold letters. But I can’t possibly keep them all; my house would be overtaken by books far too quickly if I kept all the books I received for review submission. (I swear, I’m trying NOT to sound whiney about this. It’s not a bad problem to have!)
So what can you do with your old ARCs? Here are some places I donate mine, and some that have been suggested to me by other authors and bloggers.
Teachers and schools — especially in low-income areas — are always eager and happy to accept donated books for their students and classrooms.
My brother’s mother-in-law is a 4th grade teacher at a low-income school in central Oregon, and I send her all of my extra middle grade books and ARCs for her students. The kids LOVE them! She uses them both for building up her classroom library, and as rewards for students to take home and keep. (The library also gets shared with other classes at her school, and her students act as shepherds for the books — making sure anyone who borrows them knows how special they are.) I’m excited that she’ll be teaching 6th grade next year, because I can start sending her some of my YA books, as well as middle grade.
I have another friend who teaches high school locally, and she’ll often take some of my YA books for her students, as well.
If you don’t know a teacher personally, start by visiting your local school and asking if you can donate books (age appropriate) to their classrooms and teachers. If the administration proves too bureaucratic, try befriending some of the teachers personally — or reach out through local neighborhood websites like NextDoor.com.
Find local shelters — especially those for women, teens, and children — who will accept book donations. Many will gladly take your old books and ARCs for their bookshelves. I do a lot of business with The Salvation Army through my day job, and have started sending a box or two of books to one of their facilities in the San Francisco area about twice a year! I’m hoping to find a way to donate locally, as well.
Hospitals & Retirement Homes
Hospitals — especially those serving teens with mental illness — and retirement facilities often have libraries for their residents and patients. Find out if some near you will accept donated books, and bring a box by from time to time.
Little Free Libraries
Little Free Libraries are becoming more and more common in many neighborhoods. Periodically, stop by and add some of your unwanted books to the collection. If there isn’t one in your neighborhood, you can look into adding one yourself. Or see if friends have some in their neighborhoods; I have a couple friends who will take my extra books and distribute them to their closest Little Free Libraries.
This won’t work for ARCs or used books; but sometimes, I get mailed brand new finished copies of books by publishers that I don’t plan on reading or keeping. I’ve found that these new copies of YA and MG books make for a great donation to toy drives. Teens and older kids are often overlooked in toy drives, but there’s still a need for parents to find them gifts. I’ve started a habit of setting aside any finished copies of YA and MG books I receive starting around September or October, and donating them to one of my local toy drives each December. I’ve been told by organizers that they’ve been very popular with parents of teens and older kids!
YA author Christa Desir has been a big proponent of donating books to incarcerated teens. Most prisons will only allow paperbacks, so this is a great place to donate your used paperbacks or ARCs. Get more information here.
Perhaps the least charitable but sometimes most fun way to get rid of unwanted books is to host a “book swap” with your friends. I’m lucky to have a local community of authors and bloggers with whom I am friends. I’ve hosted a holiday party for our group for the last two years, and each time, we have a “book swap,” wherein we bring any unwanted books or ARCs to share. We’re hoping to have a summer BBQ this year, too!
When the party is over, I make sure any remaining books are donated to one of the good causes mentioned above!
For the comments: How do you pass on your unwanted books and ARCs? Any other ideas to add to this list? Let us know below!