Books, Our National Treasure


I  love books.  I used to fantasize about having my own library and would attempt to keep every single book that I got my hands on; but every time my husband and I had to move, boxing up and lugging my books was a back-breaker.  I decided to reconsider my plan.  Books are extremely heavy and tough to move.  Plus, books age, just like we do.  Many times you hold on to a book, convinced that you cannot part with it only to find that the next time you pick it up, it has deteriorated.  Plus, the question arises of where and how to store the books.  In most homes and apartments storage is at a premium.  Here are some ideas for what to do with your books, ideas which will help others and free up a little storage space for you as well.

You may have seen collection bins for Better World Books ( in your supermarket parking lot.  Better World Books is a certified B corporation, which means that it even though it is for profit, it has a responsible attitude, and attempts to be a force for good.  This company donates books or a percentage of its profit to literacy programs around the world.   Better World Books was the brain child of  Christopher Fuchs, Xavier Helgesen and Jeff Kurtzman in 2001.  After their graduation from Notre Dame University, the trio sold their used college textbooks online.  This gave them the idea to come up with Better World Books, enabling them to make a profit and spread learning and literacy all over the globe.  The three then formulated a business plan using their experience selling books.  By 2013, the company had donated an estimated $14 million under this program.

Better World Books’ used book inventory comes primarily from regular book drives at over 1,800 colleges and universities and donations from over 3000 library systems, in addition to donation boxes found in parking lots, on corners and on college campuses.

Better World Books also provides additional support to literacy non-profits including:

  • Books for Africa, an agency which collects, ships and distributes books to African children.
  • The National Center for Family Literacy, which provides educational opportunities and literacy programs to at-risk children and families.
  • Room to Read, which builds libraries and schools and provides scholarships in impoverished areas of the world, including Southeast Asia.  Room to Read also publishes books for children in multiple languages.
  • Worldfund, which provides resources to improve English-language skills in Latin America.
  • Prison Book Project — a Quincy Massachusetts-based nonprofit, which provides inmates with books and legal resources.
  • Robinson Community Center – a University of Notre Dame-affiliated community center, which provides educational opportunities and tutoring services in South Bend, Indiana.
  • National Literacy Trust, an independent charity based in London, England, that promotes literacy.
  • READ International, a charity that aims to improve access to education in East Africa by relocating books which are no longer needed in UK secondary schools to Tanzania
  • The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) – an independent Irish charity which is committed to making sure people with literacy and numeracy difficulties can fully take part in society and have access to learning opportunities that meet their needs.

The Salvation Army and Goodwill accept used books for sale in their stores.  Salvation Army uses their proceeds to feed, shelter and care for the less fortunate.  Goodwill uses their proceeds to help people gain employment skills and find employment.

With Books for Soldiers (, you can create care packages with your used books and send them to deployed soldiers overseas.  After signing up as a volunteer on their website, which is required for security purposes, you can browse through the soldiers’ book requests.  Some soldiers will have specific requests, but most will just ask for anything.

Operation Paperback ( is a non-profit organization that collects paperback books and sends them to our troops overseas.  By registering for free on their site you’ll be able to tell them what genres of books you have to donate. They’ll give you names of soldiers and an address or addresses to send the books.  This is a great way to show support for our deployed troops that are deployed and missing some of the comforts of home.

Books Through Bars (  collects donated books and distributes them to inmates. Having access to reading material helps prisoners who aspire to higher education and helps them adjust to outside life at the end of their sentences. You can find a listof the most wanted materials on the Books Through Bars website. The list includes dictionaries, Spanish books, study guides, textbooks, history books, drug and alcohol recovery books, and spiritual books. Paperbacks are preferred since most prisons do not allow hardcover books.

You can use your books to help those closer to home, also.  Most public libraries can always use donations, whether to increase their own collection, or to generate funds to cover operating costs in used book sales.  Also, some school libraries can use good-condition used books.  I am fortunate enough to volunteer at a local nonprofit coffee shop/used book store in our area that accepts donations of gently used books.  The funds we sell benefit a different charity each month and the books which are unable to be sold are forwarded to a church group that recycles the paper and uses the proceeds to feed the local hungry.

As you can see, there are many ways to clean out the piles of books that you want to donate. From supporting local groups to international organizations that promote literacy around the world, there are many options available to you.

If you do need to ship your books it is generally cheapest to ship by Media Mail at the Post Office as long as there is nothing but books in the package.

For those who love them, books can be a priceless treasure; share the joy of reading with someone.  Every time we share our knowledge, we invest in all our futures.



When you read a book, you hold another’s mind in your hands.

James Burke


For I bless God in the libraries of the learned for all the booksellers in the world.

Christopher Smart

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