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A New Home For Your Books

Concord Monitor (Newspaper) - 6/22/2008 by Amy Augustine
They've been lingering on your shelves for years, neglected and untouched. They're garnering dust and strange looks from neighbors who wonder why on earth you'd need a copy of Homer's Odyssey on your living room mantelpiece. Yes, there comes a point in every bookworm's life when you must part ways with a once-beloved collection. But instead of chucking those cherished books into the recycling bin, here are a few alternatives:

Your local library

The Concord Public Library accepts orphaned books of all shapes and sizes, with some stipulations. They must be clean and in good condition, and old textbooks, encyclopedias that are over 5 years old, magazines and phonograph records aren't accepted, reference librarian Maryanne Chapman said.

"We also don't take things that have developed an odor," Chapman said.

Some of the donated books go into the library's circulation, but most are sold, with the proceeds used to benefit the library. Right now, hardbacks sell for a dollar and paperbacks go for 50 cents, but those costs will double starting July 1.

Prices are going up because the library needs money and "a lot of bargains were going out the door," Chapman said.

Still torn on what to keep and what to pitch? As a general rule, save whatever you still use.

"If you have works of fiction that don't touch your heart, you might as well pass them along to someone who can use them," Chapman said. "People love books. You do develop a special fondness for special titles, but then again, if you loved it, someone else will too."

Donate to Got Books

Got Books is a for-profit bookseller with a mission to find good homes for old books. Donated items are sorted and re-circulated back into communities based on where they will be used best. Some are given to schools and libraries while others are donated to teachers for their classrooms. A new program sends books to troops overseas, and a weekly charity book sale gives half its earnings to nonprofit groups.

Based out of Lawrence, Mass., Got Books has a network of 260 collection areas throughout New England. At schools, a bin is dropped off in a parking lot so parents, teachers and students can bring in their old books. Once the bin is full, Got Books collects the items and gives money to the school based on the weight of the bin. "It's really easy that way," said Bob Ticehurst, founder and president. "We're not picky, and that gives us a lot more flexibility."

Books can also be brought to transfer stations and recycling centers across the state, including the Concord recycling center, and the Goffstown, Warner and Bedford transfer stations. If you live in southern New Hampshire and can't drop your books off, Got Books will make arrangements to pick up your books at home.

"One of the best things about us is that we're going to find the best use for the items. By working with so many different groups, teachers and the troops, we have so many different uses," Ticehurst said. "The likelihood of us finding a good place is high. We have a good track record."

For sale

If you want something in return for your books, check out Powell's Books (powells.com) of Portland, Ore. Powell's has been around since 1971 but last year expanded to the web, buying books from people all over the world and reselling them online.
It works like this: If you go to powells.com/sell, you'll be asked to enter a 10-digit International Standard Book Number (ISBN), which can be found over the bar code or on the copyright page. After submitting the number, the website will generate a bid for the book, which you can either accept or decline. If you accept, a link will be provided for a printable prepaid shipping label, and you can send your books through the mail for free. (The ISBN code is on all books published after 1972. If a book was written before then, you can call and describe it to a specialist.)

Offers are generally about 25 percent of what the book is expected to resell for. Currently, Powell's offers only store credit for other books, not cash. But that could change, said Kim Sutton, the company's corporate marketing manager. "In the future, we're looking to use PayPal. We're working on that," she said.

Powell's asks that the books be in good condition and will not accept family bibles, outdated textbooks, adult series Westerns and romance novels, magazines and others. Check the site for more information.

"In my own experience, I sold a bunch of old books to Powell's and walked away with a hundred dollars (for books)," Sutton said. "It's a better option than selling them on your own."

Make a trade

PaperBackSwap.com is an online book club that allows members to post titles of unwanted books and trade them with others on the site. Membership is free, but the sender foots the cost of postage, which is about $2.50 for one book, and is charged through the site.

If someone wants one of your books (paperback or hardcover), you'll be emailed a link to print out two pieces of paper, with media postage, to wrap around the book. Once your requested item is received, which usually takes seven to nine days, you're issued a credit good for one book from someone else.

"We have tens of thousands of members across the U.S., and over 35,000 book swaps every week," said Richard Pickering, founder of the Atlanta-based PaperBackSwap.

The site launched in 2004, after Pickering realized he had hundreds of "gently read books," sitting around his house. He boxed them up and brought them to a used bookstore where the owner looked them over and chose only four or five from the collection, he said.

"I tried to sell them on those other big sites that are out there, but I wanted to get a book in return without ridiculous processing and shipping fees," Pickering said.

In response to PaperBackSwap's popularity (there are now more than 2.2 million titles to choose from), Pickering last year created similar sites for CDs (swapaCD.com), and DVDs (swapaDVD.com). Both are doing very well, he said.

"We're not just about trading books. We've created a social network where people can come together and talk about books, genres and authors they love in different forums," Pickering said. "People have created long-lasting friendships across the country because they have a common bond or interest in a particular subject."

Annie's Book Stop

Another option is to bring your goods to Annie's Book Stop, which accepts and sells used books. Titles can be traded for discounted books in the store. There are nine locations in New Hampshire, including in Concord, Nashua, Manchester and Peterborough.