Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2007 Issue

Wait! Don't Burn that Book, Donate It

Camel

These camels will walk many miles to bring books to rural villages.


By Karen Wright

The words "burning books" (even if they are bad books and might deserve it) bring chills to my spine; shades of Fahrenheit 451, the bookseller's nightmare! I won't pretend that there aren't books that I have wanted to burn in my lifetime as a bookseller, whether because they were really bad books or because they had been on my shelves way too long. But, I was somewhat distressed by the article last month on the dealer who was burning excess books. I understand why he felt he had to do it, but I think there are other options. As a book dealer myself, with tons of books that I would love to see go away, I thought maybe I should do a bit of research on places we booksellers could donate our excess books. As it turns out, there are many, many great organizations in place, here and overseas, that want a lot of our old books. I'll tell you about a few of them.

A couple of years ago, after our trip to Costa Rica, I sent three boxes of books to a lending library in San Jose, C.R. They appreciated them greatly and the postage was not too bad. However, with the ludicrous new overseas postage costs that just went into effect, we would need to take into consideration whether an organization will pay for all or part of the postage or not. Here are a few of the places I located. From my viewpoint, though I am a small, not terribly profitable bookstore, if I have to pay some postage to give some of these good, but unsaleable books to people who really, really need them, I will pay the postage and call it a donation for my taxes.

Let's start with Books for Soldiers, since we are talking about the men and women who are laying their lives on the line every day in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world. Whether or not you agree with the war, it is nice to know that you can do something for those brave folks. I emailed the organization and got a letter back immediately. "I'm one of the moderators at Books for Soldiers. We're so glad you've found us!"

They offer a couple of ways to become involved. One choice is to invite booksellers to join them at Books for Soldiers. It's a free, but somewhat time consuming, process. First, you would have to get an account with www.booksforsoliders.com. Then, you send in a notarized application. After the application has been processed (2-4 weeks), you will become "Official Volunteers" and have access to a variety of troop addresses.

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