Ask LH: What Should I Do With My Old Textbooks?

Ask LH: What Should I Do With My Old Textbooks?

Hi Lifehacker, I’m trying to de-clutter the house, and I have a lot of old university textbooks. What should I do with these? I figured I would refer to them during my professional career, but information is much more quickly accessible on the internet now. Yet it’s hard to throw them away because I worked so hard to buy the books. Any suggestions? Thanks, Textbook Timeout

Textbook picture from Shutterstock

Dear TT,

The day after I completed university I ritually burned all of my text books in the backyard. It was an incredibly cathartic experience that I don’t regret one bit. But you’re probably looking for a less psychopathic solution. To each their own, I guess.

If the textbooks are still current, your best bet is to sell them on eBay or through Gumtree — there are always plenty of cash-strapped students looking to save a few bucks on learning materials. Do some online research to determine whether the textbooks you own are still being used in schools and find out what prices second-hand copies typically fetch.

You can find some general tips on how to correctly price your stuff here. While written from a buyer’s perspective, this guide to purchasing university textbooks in Australia is also worth a look.

If it turns out that your textbooks have been superseded or revised a dozen times, the only viable option is to dump them. (No! Set them on fire! Watch them BURN!) Instead of just tossing them in the trash, do the environmentally friendly thing and use a recycling bin.

While throwing all those costly books away might be painful, they’ve already served their purpose and are now just gathering dust. Clinging onto them will just make you look like an unusually brainy pack rat.


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  • Do NOT take them to your local second bookstore unless you know in advance that they specialise in textbooks.
    Do NOT be surprised when they won’t take them (or your tatty Win95 for Dummies or Lonely Planet guidebooks) and will not provide a free disposal/recycling service.
    Do NOT leave them next to bookstore with a “free to good home” notice.

    Bookstores are facing enough battles without paying commercial rates to dispose of your rubbish, or having to lug a pile of heavy unwanted textbooks around to a recycling skip.

  • If they aren’t too old, an OP shop may appreciate them. I’ve picked up some JAVA and PHP books that were about 2 editions out of date, but still useful if you are just hobbying at home.

    Also, sometimes an easy way to sell them may be a second hand book store at the University. They will know if they are the current edition. Most usually take a 20% cut, but can save the hassle of Gumtree.

  • I always kind of fell as I don’t feel like I remember anything. I should keep them just in case.

  • There are some charities which send textbooks to the developing world where the cost would otherwise make them unavailable. So long as the books are “reasonably” recent, they can still be useful. Many fields of study change little over time.

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