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What to Do with Old Textbooks


As a college student, you will undoubtedly collect knowledge. Along with this knowledge, you will collect textbooks. You will likely spend a fair share of your money buying books for school, but once you’ve passed the class, what is to come of the used textbooks? Knowing what to do with old textbooks can help you either get save money and/or assist a future student.

There are a variety of options for how to recycle and reuse old books. Let’s take a look at some of the best resources for where you can donate, resell, or reuse old textbooks.

Additionally, if you want to get creative, there are some ideas for what you can make out of textbooks!

Stacks of old textbooks
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

12 Ways to Recycle Old Textbooks

1. Sell your books:

This is probably the first thing you’re going to think of. You can sell your used textbooks in many places, but popular sites to do so include: Amazon, BookByte, and Cash4Books.

2. Donate your books:

There will always be someone else who needs the book you once used. Regardless of the condition, consider giving your books away as a donation. Here are some good places where you can do so:

3. Ship your books:

It seems far-fetched, but did you ever think about the people in different states and countries that might want your books? You can ship your books to people in need.

Another idea if you are shipping your books is to share them with inmates in prison. Books to Prisoners is just one service that will help you do this.

4. Recycle your books:

Help your books find a new life in a different form! Try local recycling programs. This is especially good for paperback books.

5. Trade your books:

It may be the case that you need a book that another student has. You can rely on social media marketplaces, communicating with friends, or using a service like Student2Student to match you with a person who has the book you need (and wants the book you have).

6. Make a free book box:

Have you ever walked around your neighborhood or school campus and noticed a free book box? You can be a hero for someone else by placing your books in a public setting with a “free” note.

7. Decorate with books:

Want to get crafty? You can use old textbooks as decorations. Check out this post for 5 DIY ideas!

8. Rent books:

Rather than being in the predicament of what to do with an old textbook, you can stop buying them in the first place. There are services where you can rent your textbook so that once you finish the class, you simply return it.

9. Borrow books:

Before buying or even renting a textbook, ask your network of friends if they already have it. They may be willing to let you borrow the book for no cost. When doing this, be sure to take extra good care of the textbook since it is not your own.

10. Auction and Classifieds Websites:

You can sell your used textbooks online on listing sites like Craigslist or eBay, for example. To know how much to set your listing price at, search for the book to get an idea of what other people are selling it for.

11. Hobby Centers, Consignment Traders, and Flea Markets:

Leverage a real-life marketplace by taking your used textbooks to a flea market or consignment center and having them sell the book for you. This way, they may take a part commission, but you don’t have to do the work!

12. Garage Sales:

As a college student, you may want to consider having a garage (or dorm) sale. You can advertise the sale across campus, or if you attend an online college, in a forum.

Why We Need Solutions

It may come as a shock to you that within less than 18 years, our landfills will reach their maximum capacity. Books can contribute a large amount of waste if they are simply thrown out.

The worst part is that books should not be considered waste! Books are resources and can be life changing. Books can easily be given a new life — whether that’s by donating them to someone in need or by reusing books for new purposes.

Check the Value of Your Books

If you are planning to sell your books online, it will be useful to first find out what they are being valued at so that you set a reasonable price. You can check out sites like BookScouter which help you value your book based on its condition.

More Ideas

As mentioned before, you can sell your books or give them to friends. Another good idea is to leverage social media to find people who want your books. Whether you post on Instagram, Facebook groups, Snapchat or elsewhere, you can expand your network of who can gain access your book.

If you want to shift how you go about buying books in the first place, then you can also consider using e-books instead of textbooks. E-books are electronic versions of textbooks, and therefore, they do not contribute to waste. Once you are done with them, you can continue to digitally store them in your library or you can simply remove them.

Creation of book art
Photo by Ella Christenson on Unsplash

Cool Ways to Reuse Old Textbooks

You may have decided you want to get artsy and keep all of your books in a new form. Now you need some ideas of what you can make with old textbooks.

Check out these fun ideas:

1. A Book Safe:

You can cut out a space within a book and use it to store secret items. No one will ever suspect there are goodies inside of a book!

2. An Invisible Bookshelf:

You can create a bookshelf using an L-shaped piece of metal and hang it on the wall. Then, you can place your stack of books on it so they seem to be floating against the wall.

3. A Clock:

This idea takes some work, but you can actually create a clock out of a book!

4. A Lamp:

Want to take your lamp to the next level? Consider placing it upon a stack of books. That way, you can both better illuminate your space and use the area for book storage.

5. A Cover for Your eReader or Tablet:

You can take the pages out of an old hardcover book and use the shell as a cover for your tablet or ereader. This way, you can ensure your digital device is protected, while making use of a now obsolete textbook.

6. Bookends:

Textbooks are heavy. You can use them as bookends to help hold up lighter books vertically.

7. A Headboard:

Want to soak up some knowledge while you dream? Consider creating a headboard out of old textbooks. This is both artistic and efficient.

8. Make Art:

You can use paper from books to draw. When you draw on top of writing, it adds an extra element to how the art looks. Then, you can frame your creations. Or, you can cut out shapes in the pages of books for a 3D statement.

The Closing Chapter

Finishing a class likely means having a leftover book. You have so many options of what to do with old textbooks. From donating, reselling, reusing, and more, you shouldn’t have to spend any time worrying about how to get rid of the stack of books you have compiled as a college student.

Along with artistic endeavors and creative ideas, you can reconsider your entire book approach by shifting to e-books instead. How’s that for a novel approach? (See what we did there?) The choice is yours to make. Whatever you do, try not to simply throw a book away.