Mini-Money Challenge: Sell Some Books

I’m of the Erasmus school of spending:

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.

As an example, these are some of – but not all of, you understand – my cookbooks:

I have an equivalent number of gardening and house-maintenance books, quite a few big, heavy collections of art and photography and another bookcase full of paperbacks.

Homebrew Husband has at least as many books as I do, mostly history and physical science books. He also brought the entire, twenty volume Oxford English Dictionary to our joint book collection. That’s right, we have about five linear feet of dictionary. 

You want to know the etymology of phrontistery? No problem! We’ll just go into our library-study and look it up! (Geek pun-humor, right there.)

Our weakness for books puts a healthy dent in our budget and our storage space. Many of these books cost $20 or more originally, and we have hundreds and hundreds of them.

That shit adds up.

Some of our book investments have actually appreciated: Homebrew Husband has a technical schematic of Formula 1 Racecars that sells for $250. He paid $30 for it.

800% returns notwithstanding, emotionally, it’s hard to part with books. Many of these books were my friends, creatures I had known from nut and acorn, so to speak. But logically I know that many (possibly most) of my tomes aren’t actively adding value to the life I have now.

Many represent interests from years ago – my kanji dictionary from studying in Japan, my first micro economics textbook written by a professor I adored, and pretty much everything related to triathlon training are in that category. Some books are How Tos that are made superfluous by the ever-present internet.

Some duplicate other books so completely that I really just need to buck up, make a decision and let the lesser of the pair go. I have a lot of gardening books in that category. How many different books do I really need to show me how to plan and grow a beginner’s veggie garden when I’ve kinda got that concept pretty well hammered out?

Luckily, there is money to be recouped in an unwieldy book stash!

Your Mini-Money Challenge

Your Mini-Money Challenge for the day is to select at least ten books that you no longer love, box them up and put them in your car or bike’s panniers. Next time you go out, plan your route so that you can swing by a used book store and sell those suckers. If you are feeling hardcore, you don’t have to stop at ten books. Go as big as you want to go. You can free yourself from the burden of books you no longer truly love and make some cash in the process.

Here’s the beginning of the pile I am gathering with plans to sell. (That’s right, George R.R. Martin, your forth book pissed me off so much we are selling everything with your name on it. Good riddance. Maybe with the money we make we’ll rent the HBO series. I hear those guys know how to keep a story moving. Not that I’m bitter about all those nights I wasted, staying up until 4 am because I thought this relationship was all going somewhere…)

Now, if books aren’t your thing, feel free to substitute no-longer-loved DVDs, CDs, used iPhones, baby clothes from when your 17 year old was little – whatever you have that you are keeping out of inertia and not because it fills a particular need in your life anymore.

Make some money by making peace with letting some of your unloved and unneeded stuff go.

Mini-Money Bonus Edition

So there are these things called libraries. I thought everyone had heard of them but then I saw this:

Oh, kids these days. Excuse me while I go weep for awhile.

If you haven’t been in a library in a while they just keep getting better and better. I can go online and request any book in my library’s regional system and unless a million other people want it, it’ll be waiting at my local branch with my name literally on it in about two days. That’s the same amount of time it takes Amazon to get a book to me, and the library doesn’t charge me at all for this service.

My Kindle-having husband tells me you can now check ebooks out from the library too. You just go online, find a book you want (I noted over 2000 available titles in the Sci Fi & Fantasy section alone, so there’s a lot to choose from) and check it out for 14 days with your library card. Free! What a huge potential savings that could be for people who read a lot of ebooks on their Kindle or iPad or eReader.

Your Mini-Money Bonus Challenge is to get yourself a library card if you don’t already have one. You can probably do this from the comfort of your computer. Then, spend 5 or 10 minutes browsing your local library’s website and see what you find there. You might discover a whole world of entertainment, free for the taking.

If you’ve got a library card but maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve checked out what’s available, take a trip (real or virtual) to your local branch and give the library a chance to make you feel kinda stupid about how much money you’ve spent buying single-read books in the past.

What are you hanging on to that you no longer love and use? What is stopping you from parting with it?


  1. says

    At this point, I have very little that I’m hanging on to that I don’t use and/or love. Not nothing, I’m sure, but nothing springs to mind. A divorce, two cross country moves, and moving (in-town, mostly) an average of once a year for my adult life has really put the kibosh on keeping things.

    For awhile, it was cookbooks. That’s kind of how my blog came about. But even when I thought I had a lot of cookbooks (43 – 45), over time I became willing to just get rid of some of them. Another few have to prove their worth soon, or out they go as well.

    The hardest part about my situation is that I am the person in the relationship who has an easier time purging stuff (see above), and I am the one who is home all the time, so I can purge mostly things that are “mine”. I can’t get rid of the computer stuff, or his books or such…

    My cross-stitch stuff. Typing this out reminded me of it, lurking under the bed. I don’t have the interest in cross-stitch I used to, and I have a ton of stuff. Maybe I could get $50 for it on Craigslist.

  2. Sunfire says

    Ah, books! We’re going through a transition in our home regarding books. The fun, fluffy stuff that got read once is making its way out, while we are slowly but surely rebuilding our library to contain all sorts of classics that we deem worthy of being saved in print.
    We keep most of our research and how-to’s limited to the internet, or we borrow books from the library. There have been a few times we borrowed a book then realized we wanted to own our own copy. We’ve also taken to recording or copying information from books that we borrow, so that we don’t need to have the whole book on hand.

  3. says

    I love this challenge, although there’s little left here in the way of books or CDs to sell. I once had a cookbook collection much like yours, but I’m down to one shelf now. A single shelf of gardening books. Some unread fiction books I picked up at garage sales remain, but I no longer keep novels once I’ve read them. My CDs have all been ripped and sold. We were never into buying movies, so the ones we do own are minimal and mostly kids’ films.

    I recouped a lot of money from these by selling on and eBay back when shipping wasn’t so expensive. I’ve never really tried selling anything to used book stores. By the way, I noticed that now has a rental option, even for books, but I don’t know why anyone would ever do that.

    I love the library and haven’t been without a card since my first one back when I was about 8 years old!

  4. says

    Getting rid of books, books I paid good money for, helped me not continue to buy books. It was a lesson in “Am I only going to read this once and then sell it for pennies on the dollar?”. If the answer swings anywhere near yes, library. Even if 1,000 other people want that book, and it takes me 3 months to get it. I’d still rather hang on to my $14-16.95 thanks.

    Consequently books are most paired down, CDs and DVDs are long since gone. And good riddance. Less dust, and no further skin off my entertainment nose.

  5. Jocelyn says

    I’m just as bad with hanging onto books. I’ve got a slew of cookbooks, so many that I have them filling a bookcase upstairs, filling a kitchen cupboard, and filling a bookcase & counter downstairs. I also have a slew of books related to cake decorating as I had a small cake biz not that long ago. Unfortunately, due to health issues & eye issues, I had to pack the biz in.

    I keep all my cake books & equipment in a separate storage area in hopes one of my four granddaughters might show an interest in cake decorating one day. So far, only my youngest granddaughter age 9 has shown interest & if she decides to take it seriously one day, that little gal will have every size & shape cake pan that’s been made, as well as multiple sized sheet pan, cupcake pans, candy molds, chocolate molds, fondant/gumpaste molds, cutters, veiners, immpression mats, boxes of decorating equipment, two heavy duty mixers & one regular stand mixer. That little gal will want for nothing!
    If by chance, my granddaughter decides she doesn’t want to persue cake decorating, I’ll most likely donate my cake books & supplies to the local culinary school, as theres no way on earth I’d spend hours trying to figure out how much each individual decorating item I have is worth, & then try to sell it.

    As your hubby, I’ve got decorating books & a few cookbooks that have risen in value over the years, & I know I really should try to sell them on ebay, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Not yet anyway.. I did try to sell all my gardening books a few months back as my health problems restrict how much gardening I can do, but no one was interested in the books, not even my local second hand book store. I even called my local gardening club and offered the books and boxes of gardening magazines I had for free, but they didn’t want them either. I was a bit taken aback they didn’t want the books & magazines, as I’m sure they have new & novice members joining all the time who could have used them. I suppose the internet has a lot to do with it though. You can go online and find gardening information & advice everywhere, so, really, why bother with gardening books? Anyway, I finally sent my gardening books & mags off to the thrift store where I hope, they’ll get used & not thrown out.

    • says

      Don’t worry Jocelyn, I’ve been buying your garden books … I have a weakness for books, so rather than spend thousands at bookstores, I buy them at the thrift store (but it’s only $3 … etc.). Still, I suppose there are those that I don’t read, and won’t read … it’s just the matter of finding the right market … half-price books gave me less than a dollar on each of my $60 biochemistry books … Now I just have to get my *mom* from buying me stuff … we have a plan to be on the road for a year … everything we don’t sell we’ll have to store. Yikes!

      At least, we max out our 50 book limit at the library every week.

  6. says

    First, I’d just like to thank you for posting pictures of your cookbooks. Now I don’t feel so alone in my dedication to such a large collection. Most of my friends don’t really get it.

    I’m really bad about hanging onto books. Part of it is just that I really like having them around. Part of it is that I feel somewhat more secure knowing that I have a ready supply of entertainment at hand were anything bad to happen, or if the local library keeps losing staff and hours. But I do probably still have more than I need, although recently I’ve been trying to focus on building up a collection of books that I really love and that I think are worth having and holding onto. Happily, most of my books are from the local used bookstore that’s run by a charity. I don’t think I’ve paid any more than $5 for something from there, so even though it still adds up, it’s not as brutal as if they were bought new. Of course, that also means that I can come home with a lot more (which is exactly what I do).

    As for the challenge, I think I actually have a stack of books ready to go from my last, never completed purge. Since they’re just sitting there in the donation pile, maybe I’ll just try to get them over to the used bookstore instead – it never really occurred to me to try to sell them.

  7. Anne says

    And even if you can’t see the books — the used bookstore already has a bunch of copies, they have a “no hardback mysteries” policy — sometimes they have a free shelf where you can leave them, or you can donate them to some (not all) thrift stores. Even if you don’t get money, getting space can be liberating, too.

  8. says

    Our used book stores give back so little when you sell books, it’s hardly worth the gas to drive there. What I’ve been doing is taking my old books to Value Village (local thrift shop) and I go there twice a year to binge on books (I usually spend about $60 and come home with 30-40 books!). This year, a friend of mine was paring down her collection, and offered me first pick, so I don’t even have to go binge in the store!

  9. says

    I use to get rid of my unwanted books. Nice thing about it is that when I send someone a book from my library, I am granted one credit. Buying a book from another member is also one credit. If I want a book but don’t have any credits, I can buy credits for 3.45 each. I’ve used the site for over a year now and I love it – it’s a great resource, and I like that it helps keep our mail service in use (since most people use email nowadays).

  10. Bella says

    You had me up until this line
    (you aren’t still actually holding on to physical CDs, are you? Rip those songs and sell the disk)
    So, copyright law expressly prohibits this sort of thing. And it’s not that I’m worried about being caught – it’s just that I do actually believe it is wrong to purposefully cicumvent copyright. Like the gardening books – most likely I would only want to keep layouts or other particularly interesting parts of a books, not the whole thing. But where does the line get drawn?
    As a writer Erica – how would you view someone buying your garden journal – and then printing out several copies for friends? Or just printing out one – and passing it along? I’m not trying to be argumentative but merely posing the question as I’m curious to the answer. I think that’s part of why I’m hanging on the physical copies of DVDs and CDs, we haven’t bought a new one in ages, but part of me thinks it’s wrong to copy them and sell the originals. Is it okay just to donate the originals – though that still seems to be circumventing library licences etc.. Seems like waste of landfill space to throw them out. What’s a person to do? I can garuntee the artist doesn’t want them back :)

    • says

      I am curious what Erica has to say on this, too. As for me, I have no qualms with ripping a CD for my own use, then selling the original, or selling a CD without making a copy, or making a copy of it and keeping both the copy and the original. It’s not as if I’m going to sell my MP3 file or burn bootleg discs or anything like that. If I were trying to make money from my copy,that would be different, but I’m not. I’m recouping a dollar or two at most. Not to mention, nearly all of the CDs I did have, I purchased used at garage sales and flea markets. I can’t even remember the last time I bought a new CD. I know artists deserve pay for their works, but I don’t think the sale of discs is their primary money-maker (although it probably does benefit the recording companies).

    • says

      Well, the truth is, and this is a bit embarrassing, I didn’t actually think about it. It was my impression, based on nothing other than…I dunno, wishing, I guess…that ripping songs and then selling the disk was within fair use as long as you weren’t setting up a big pirating business, for the same reasons Annie mentions. But some cursory internet research reveals that I was wrong, and I thank you so much for bringing this to my attention! I am a fan of not stealing people’s stuff, and a fan of not having my stuff stolen (which happens quite a lot when you are a blogger) so I understand at a logical and emotional level your points. They are valid, and I will amend the original post to not encourage people into inadvertent copyright-infringing douchebaggery.
      Now, as to what one should *do* with CDs etc that they no longer want, since the reselling of a book or a disk or a DVD without maintaining a copy of the original is legal, if one were to decide they were well and truly done with the content, I would still advocate taking those disks, etc. to the local resale place in your area. But then this brings us back to the interesting moral issue of artist support, which is that an artist or writer sees no royalties at all for works resold. An author makes nothing for their book when it is resold, even if that same book circulates through a half-dozen owners who buy and then sell it back. I believe it is the same for recording artists. So you could say that the used book/media industry screws over artists and authors insofar as it allows people to buy content without paying the creator of that content. At this point we are out of the realm of legality and into the ethical evaluation. I suspect that as self-published books, music and other content become more and more mainstream and digital distribution / print-on-demand services get more market share over traditional distribution systems, this ethical question will be less important to artists who will be seeing a far larger chunk of money for the products they create than the traditional publishing system allows. (Through old school publishing also helps amazing editors, layout pros, photographers, sound engineers, producers and whatnot make a living, too, we mustn’t forget).

      • Bella says

        That was such a classy reply.
        I for one am very interested to see how the model of how to make money from creative pursuits that can be captured digitally (writing, movies, music) eventually pans out. I am a little scared that the current reward system works for the people who use ads to pay for their art – and thus those who will not create for a consumer audience will be left without sponsorship.

        • Elizabeth says

          Copyright rules allow you to make one copy for personal use. So there is nothing wrong with keeping your copy and selling the original. As long as you paid for that original copy.

  11. Nick Brady says

    and I though I liked before……. now that I see you share my destain for George r.r. Martin I like u even more! that aside, great post. time to go purge some books when I get home…… but nothing from story publishing!

    • says

      I ranted about that 4th book for a week. Seriously. You want some entertaining reading? Check out this Amazon review of book 5. It brought me more joy than all of book 4, which is when I knew my affair with Mr. Martin’s brain was over.

      • says

        wow…. great review of book 5. You’ve turned me! Mr. Martins books are going to the used book store… if he spent 1/2 the energy he spends on his other projects (a fire and ice COOKBOOK!?) the whole story would be finished by now…. great…. i’m going to dwell on this all day….

        p.s. i did kinda want to buy the cookbook but its no spend month!

  12. Gayle says

    You can also try! You just plug in the bar code, they give you the value and let yo print a FedEx label to adhere to the box. Stuff them in the box, send them off and you get $$!

  13. says

    Now this is something I can really get behind. We have about 1800 books (yes, I counted) and recently received five more boxes of books from a friend who was moving to London. I also really, really love the quarterly library book sale. So I have a routine of separating out books and bringing them to our local used store every few weeks. It’s super rewarding–I have over a hundred dollars in credit–and it means I can “buy” books as presents etc without actually forking over any money at all. Hooray!

  14. says

    I adore my two library cards (I have one for Brooklyn and one for Manhattan; NYC has three library systems – I’m missing the Queens one). With very few exceptions, these days, I will borrow a book from the library and only if I am sure I will read it again, do I buy a copy. I do still indulge in used books, since I can get them at reasonable prices. But brand-new books are few and far between these days, only occurring if I go to a book signing with the intent of purchasing the author’s book. (I have a few favorite authors, who I will buy new books for.)

  15. AK says

    My friends and I will occasionally get together for drinks and book swapping. It may not free up shelf space, but is a good way get rid of old books and find new ones too!

  16. Elizabeth says

    I was thrilled to see that now Amazon has a trade-in program for some books, games, dvds, and cds. We had a ton of books we were ready to part with and none of the used book stores locally would take them. I was shocked as they all said they weren’t buying books right now. So we had a yard sale and got rid of quite of few, but still had some good books (hardcover or newer books) left over. So I went on to Amazon and did a trade-in credit: they pay for the books to be shipped to them and then they issue you an Amazon store credit. It may not be cash, but I can use that credit for anything on Amazon I might NEED, instead of want. Granted, you won’t get rich with this technique, but if I have tried to sell the book elsewhere and couldn’t, I will take whatever Amazon is willing to give!

  17. says

    Love! I turn in a big box-o-books to the thrift store every year. Mostly things I got from them in the first place. My thrifts have books for 25-50cents. So I buy a lot. Over 800 at last count.

    I need to keep most of them though. I have reread most of them more than once. I only have about 20 cookbooks, those are most likely to be bought new, but when I’m done with them, I can give them to friends most of the time.

    I just picked up a big bag of pulp sci-fi/horror books at a yard sale. Some of them are falling apart, so once I read them, the wrecked ones will be destined for craft projects!

    I do have a Kindle, but its just not the same. They have good free books and some nice anthologies for very little money.

    And the comment about the libraries made me choke up my iced tea. Thankfully I was facing the computer screen at an angle at the time and managed to miss it.

  18. Kate Rowbot says

    This will be so hard for me — I sort of feel about my books like Scrooge McDuck feels about his vault full of animated gold coins. I want to have so many that I can literally swim in them (please tell me someone else gets this reference). Maybe this is a clue that I really, really need to do this.

  19. Kallie says

    I volunteer at a museum that is in the same building as my library, I’ve learned some really interesting things. Our library like most others will transfer books to another branch or hold them for you, or put you on the waiting list etc. so you don’t waste a trip. I also found out that if they don’t carry a particular book they will often search nationally or world wide to barrow a copy from outside their system. You may also want to consider donating your books to the library. I would suggest finding out who is in charge of making the decision and emailing them a list of what you have, if they feel it is of interest or current they would be glad to have it. There are several e-book systems out there and depending on cost and popularity each library system makes a choice of which to subscribe to. My city has a very small and limited selection of e-books, but the big city we are on the outskirts of has a much better selection, and as long as I have a current library card I can barrow from them as well.

  20. says

    Great post. I have been slowly culling some books, mainly through donating them. Criteria for collecting have changed. The question now is: “Will I re-read this, or is it worth keeping as a how-to?” If not, OUT it goes. You, dear Erica, are obviously gifted in the realm of organization. For the more challenged among us, may I recommend Flylady? Ignore the overly cute and Christian overtones if those are not to your taste. I am an old semi-hippie pagan and I love the woman.

  21. says

    We pared our books, CDs, and DVDs down a couple of years ago when seriously considering taking up the RV lifestyle. While we’ve added a few new (used, actually) DVDs, we constantly assess our collection and take others in for trade. We do wonder now, though, whether using up all our trade on the entire Highlander series was wise. *sigh*

    So, I can’t do the book challenge, but I can shift it over to the kitchen. I finally got me a Vitamix a few months ago but the six appliances it replaced are still sitting in boxes waiting to be listed on craigslist for sale. I vow to get those photos taken and posted by the weekend.

    Oh, the bonus challenge – no challenge at all. I’m at the library weekly at least, more often when my reserved books from other branches show up. My hold list is always longer than my currently checked out list. LOL

    • Jocelyn says

      Oh gosh, don’t be tooooo hasty to get rid of the small appliances your think your vitamix will replace, you could regret that you did, down the road. I bought a vitamix when they first came on the scene & were only available through the manufacturer. I used mine a lot at first, but after awhile I found it wasn’t the best machine for doing what I’d always done in my stand mixer and food processor. I found the vitamix too powerful, even on the lowest setting for delicate mixing & chopping, & soon went back to doing that task in my mixer & processor like always. I do give the vitamix 10 thumbs up for making green drinks, smoothies, milk shakes, frozen sorbet, hot soup without having to heat a pot though, & it’s just super for grinding grains if you’ve got the extra container.

  22. Iforonwy says

    When we inherited this house it came with about 6,000 books! We were tasked with getting the best price for them and passing on the money to a late aunt’s old university. We did what we could and also passed on a great deal to students who needed out of print books. We still have a whole wall of library shelves in our living room – they were taken from an redundent library – but we could not live without books! DH comes from a long line of librarians.
    Just come back from our local library and will probably be going back again this afternoon to a talk by an author on his latest crime novel.
    But I did take up the challenge regarding clothes, took a bag full to a local charityshop, put one or two items to the re-cycle box, took a couple of items to a consignment store and am preparing another few items for e-bay.

  23. says

    I have finally started parting with my vast library of books. The hard part is selling them. I live in a small town and the bookstores don’t want what I’m selling (they want gardening books not European art and architecture). So we put up with boxes piled in the corners of the rooms until I make a trip to a larger town.

    Ditto the sentiments on Book 4. I chucked it into a corner after suffering through 1/3 of it after learning that a 5th book, with people you actually care about, was being released.

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