How can I reuse or recycle old books?

books250.jpgI’ve been thinking about doing a post on books for a while but the very, very obvious answer for me is “charity shops”. I buy a lot of books from charity shops and give away ones I’m done with but we’ve got a big stack of books that aren’t really suitable for that route – namely, very out of date geeky tech books.

A lot of the technology that John’s interested in moves so fast that the books are practically out of date by the time they’ve been printed and sent out. He’s trying to buy e-book versions instead now but that doesn’t address the collection he’s amassed over the years. General theory books might be of use to someone but a lot of the (very geeky, professional) training-manual types are pretty much obsolete. They’re very specialist and as I said, very out of date so chances are they’d just sit on the shelf at a charity shop until they were thrown out, or someone would waste their money buying them, thinking they’d be more useful than they are. We’ve tried giving them away through our local geek group (WYLUG) but no one wants them.

They’re big, thick, well-printed tomes and it seems a waste just to send them for recycling.

So any suggestions?

(Photo by hatashonin)

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30 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle old books?”


  1. Bobbie says:

    Depending on how “old” a computer book is, it might be of use to some museum. Many of the old computers are still out there and I believe they will be collected and of course will need manuals for both hardware and software.

  2. Anonymous says:

    wwww.bookcrossing.com

    • Gill says:

      Thank you, thank you. I’ve scoured google for this website. Had no idea what it was called but had read about the idea some time ago.

  3. PrrlGrrl says:

    Depending on how thick the books are, you could stack two or more together and… upholster them!! When we were little children, my grandmother made us little sitting stools by anchoring four large, empty juice cans together and covering them with padding and fabric. She even sewed a flat handle across the top so they could be picked up and moved easily and still not interfere with the seating. Your books, of course, would be heavier than the cans, but it seems that they might still work well that way. Just one idea.

  4. trish says:

    try and post them on amazon 1st. there are a lot of people who collect those, and some people might still find them useful, while somethings change, usually the basics stay the same

  5. Emily says:

    Alter them! Paint, draw, doodle, glue “bits n pieces” in them… Crafty people might love one!

  6. Heather says:

    You could hollow them out to create secret book hiding places. And really, the more obsolete the book, the safer your stashed treasures.

    There are a few sets of instructions for making hollowed books at Onstructables: http://www.instructables.com/id/EOPFWWA9OLET2JYSTK/

  7. elizabeth says:

    Give them to any artists you know for making homemade sketchbooks– just gesso over each page (opaquely or thinly– some people might like the words peeping through the art)and it’s clean to draw on.

  8. jodilee says:

    Tear out the pages and use it to paper a wall or notice board in an office/geek space. Or one wall of the toilet to amuse ‘sitters’
    Cover an old ugly piece of furniture with the pages and then laquer in a clear sealant to ‘pimp’ up an otherwise boring, dated or plain ugly table or chest of drawers. I have seen this done with chinese newspapers and the football pink or the yellow Loot (free ads paper)Looks pretty cool and when you get fed up just stick on some new ones.

  9. Amanda says:

    http://www.paperbackswap.com

    If you make an account, credit me please… musicallyminded@mail2musician.com

  10. Aine says:

    Shoot Anonoymous stole my idea – bookcrossing.com is great for getting rid of books you don’t want – give them a happier life, with someone possibily more interested in them.

  11. Anna says:

    Personally I ADORED these ideas !!!!
    Check this website for shelves made out from old books….it’s awesome !!!
    http://www.thisintothat.com/gallery/funniest.html#

  12. Emily says:

    I love to decopage things, and the first thing that came to mind was to take out the pages and cover things! You could make wordy-looking (or nerdy-looking, if they’re tech books) treasure boxes, pencil holders, drawer organizers, Christmas ornaments… the possibilities are endless!

  13. john says:

    This guy makes a lamp shade out of an old book.

    Cut a square out of the middle of the spine and mount a light fitting in there. Drill holes in the opposite sides, top and bottom. Thread string through the holes.

    Mount the book fully open with it’s cover to the wall, spreading the pages evenly (the string holds them in place). Turn on light and see nice slotted light effect! Only use a low power bulb though to avoid fires!

    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/960255/recycle_lamp_shade/

  14. mormonsim says:

    use some of the ideas and pictures in the book and your picture using the computer it was used for as a scrapbook page.

  15. Eric says:

    A place like paperbackswap.com or bookcrossing.com would be a great option. Old training manuals may be useless, but there’s a collector out there for everything. Post ads on somewhere like craigslist to see if there are any takers. If they are truely obsolete and useless, they’ll find a happy home mixed with your newspapers on recycling day.

  16. Collette says:

    As a librarian, I have to say this one….try your local archive or public library. Now if they’re falling apart, I would just recycle the paper and cardboard, but some archivists especially might be interested in collecting info about technology and how fast it moves/develops at this point in history. Does anyone have a better idea for re-using old, outdated ex-library books (some of which are falling apart)? I’ve just been putting them in the dumpster, because no place around me recycles.

  17. Collette says:

    As a librarian, I have to say this one….try your local archive or public library. Now if they’re falling apart, I would just recycle the paper and cardboard, but some archivists especially might be interested in collecting info about technology and how fast it moves/develops at this point in history. Does anyone have a better idea for re-using old, outdated ex-library books (some of which are falling apart)? I’ve just been putting them in the dumpster, because no place around me recycles them.

  18. Gulia says:

    Use them as bricks to build a column, or a wall. Cement them together, and plaster over.

    Line them up on a floor of your attic for extra insolation.

    They can be tied up together into big blocks to be used for building cheap houses, in the same way straw bales are used.

  19. Glen says:

    You can always donate them to a local charity or sell them to a site like

    http://www.sellbackyourbook.com

    Hope this helps,
    Glen Nothnagel

  20. iris says:

    I am an artist who specializes in recycling old books. I prefer working with those which are archaic. But for those with no interest in transforming the material, why not donate those books to primary school art classes or poorly-funded after school programs. The pages can be torn out, painted, used as floor protection during messy projects, or even used instead of origami paper or construction paper. The strange symbols might even spark an interest in those young minds… who knows!

  21. Rob says:

    http://www.weswapbooks.com

    A free to use book swapping community, great site.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Book-Cycle is an amazing route for your old books, it will house them in a free bookshop or else send them free to schools and orphanages in developing countries. they also plant trees around the U.K.

  23. HuntingWabbits says:

    In fair weather, put them outside your house. I’m sure SOMEONE will take them.

  24. Sofia says:

    You could use them to build furniture.
    Check out this great instructable on how to use books as table legs:
    http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-table-legs-out-of-books/

  25. Emily Craig says:

    I have been using price comparison sites like http://www.thecollegetextbooks.net for buying my textbooks. It is better than going for standalone stores. As you can save on lot of money using them.

  26. Sarah says:

    You are all angels. I have a huge stack of old programming books that have been gathering dust for 10 years, I now know what to do with them.
    Thanks!

  27. Penny says:

    I need to find a new home for my complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica, bought in 1984. They are in very good condition but no one wants them.

  28. Karen says:

    I found something really neat
    http://www.weupcycle.com/en/tag-249-notiz-igel/
    Its a place to store papers in an old book…



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