11 Ways To Recycle Books

If you’re a bookworm like me then you’ve no doubt got all sorts of books lying around that you’ve read but don’t really know what to do with. Fortunately there are a whole host of different ways to recycle books that are fun, quick and simple to do.

Add to that the fact that learning how to recycle books can help to declutter your home, to save trees by allowing others to enjoy the books you’ve already read and that some of the methods can even make you a little extra money on the side or provide you with new books to read and clearly book recycling is something that everyone with an interest in sustainable living should embrace.

How To Recycle Books By Borrowing Rather Than Buying Them

The first in sustainable living is of course to try to reduce our consumption of products to begin with by purchasing less before we look at recycling and reusing those items we’ve already bought and of course recycling books is no different.

When you’re interested in a book rather than going straight out to buy a new copy, why not consider looking into the many options to borrow books (or buy them second hand) so that fewer trees need to be used to produce new books?

Many of the resources we’re going to discuss later on in this article can be used to find books that are owned by people who no longer want them so they’re all worth a look if you want to reduce your consumption. However there are also three useful resources you can utilize to borrow books that other people own so that a single copy can be enjoyed by dozens of people over it’s lifespan.


It goes without saying for any eco-conscious bookworm that joining your local library should be your first port of call. However the limitation of libraries is that smaller libraries often have quite a small range of books which can be quite frustrating when you’re looking for a specific book or have interests that are less popular and so tend not to be serviced by libraries.


booksfreeBooksFree is an online book rental club servicing the USA with over 250,000 titles in their range. In contrast to what their name may suggest this isn’t a free service – subscription rates start currently at just under $15 a month – but the name refers more to freeing yourself from the limitations of owning books.

BooksFree uses the same style of subscription model that many of the popular online DVD rental services use in that you can borrow an unlimited number of books each month but the subscription package you select decides how many books you can have at home at any one time.

As soon as you’ve finished a book you pop it back into the prepaid envelope and send it back off to their warehouse at which point they select the next book on your list and ship it out to you. In this way you have a constant supply of books to read through – and a far larger range of options than you’ll find at your local library – with no late-payment fees if it takes you a while to finish a book.

One further point worth mentioning is that BooksFree customers can also donate unwanted books and in exchange receive credits which can be used to purchase new books from their website incase you end up renting a book you’d really rather keep.

Click here to visit BooksFree.


bookswimBookSwim is a direct competitor of BooksFree offering a largely very similar business model in that you pay a monthly subscription fee based on the number of books you want to have at home at any one time but you can send back and receive as many books as you can read while your membership is active.

Overall, at the time of writing, the membership fees at BookSwim are a little more expensive than an BooksFree but don’t necessarily let this put you off for two reasons.

Firstly BookSwim offers a “mini” package (currently less than $10 per month) where you can have just one book at home at any time. Bearing in mind the price of buying a new book this still offers a significant saving if you read a book every week or two and it’s also a low-cost way of testing these book rental clubs.

Secondly while BooksFree focuses mainly on audio books and paperbacks, BookSwim also offers a significant range of hardback books. Anyone familiar with the publishing industry will know that the majority of new books are published firstly as hardbacks and then some months later in paperback form because the publishers make most money from hardback editions.

This means that while BookSwim is slightly more expensive you’re likely to find it easier to get your hands on the very latest books released rather than having to wait for a paperback verion to be released as you would with BooksFree.

Click here to visit BookSwim.

How To Recycle Books By Selling Them

A few years ago I moved house and in the weeks leading up to the move as I slowly packed up our belongings I was shocked by just how many books I owned that I no longer wanted or needed. There are literally stacks of books I wanted to get rid of but I didn’t want to just throw them away so instead I tried selling them and to my surprise I was able to raise a reasonable amount of money by doing so which helped significantly with the costs of moving.


ebayEbay is the site most people think of when it comes to selling second-hand books but while some people have had success the low barrier to entry means that Ebay is awash with books and they tend to be sold for a pittance. As a result during my experiments I found it very difficult to make it worth my time to list all my books, include photos, provide all the necessary details, pay the listing fees and then post out the few that actually got bid on.

Click here to visit Ebay.


amazonDid you know that you can sign up for a free seller account with Amazon and list your books for sale right on their site? Anyone searching for a particular book will see a link on the right-hand side of the page listing any second-hand copies of the book currently available – and if so the costs of buying the book second-hand rather than new.

Not only are the people searching Amazon actively looking for books but Amazon makes it both quick and easy to actually list your books with them. It’s also free to get started so there is no risk to you. You simply enter the ISBNs of the books you’d like to sell, decide on a price, select the condition of each book and your listings go live.

When someone orders a book from you, Amazon charge their credit card and then email you to tell you where to send the book. Then Amazon takes their commission from the sale and deposits the rest of the money into your bank account so this is a really fun and easy way to recycle books and earn some extra cash along the way.

Using a free Amazon seller account I managed to sell dozens of second-hand books in a few weeks and raise several hundred dollars in cash as a result so this method of recycling books is well worth considering.

Click here to visit Amazon.

How To Recycle Books By Swapping Them

Rather not go to the hassle of selling your unwanted books? Then why not recycle books by swapping them with other people. In this way not only do you manage to get rid of books you no longer want but you can even receive books you do want in exchange leading to a constant supply of new reading material without harming the environment.


bookhopperI personally tested out BookHopper some months ago without really expecting much from the service. Rather like Amazon you simply type in the ISBNs of the books you have available and they are then listed on the BookHopper website. Any other BookHopper member can then request your books, at which point you post them out and then receive a “credit”. At any time you can then cash in your credits to request unwanted books from other BookHopper members.

I like this “credit” system because unlike some of the other book swapping websites mentioned below I can still send off books if there aren’t any others I’m interested in receiving right now. With some others if someone requests a book from you, you need to then select a book from them before the swap takes place so of course if they don’t have any books available that appeal to you then you’ll either have to back out of the swap or receive another book you don’t really want.

After I listed my books available I was actually quite shocked at how many requests I got and indeed my first swap was completed within 24 hours of joining the site. In my experience this is a reliable, well-run site which makes it both easy and fun to recycle books – after all once you’ve sent out a few books and therefore have some credits just think how much fun it is browsing through thousands of available books knowing you can have any one you like for free!

Click here to visit BookHopper.


paperbackswapPaperBackSwap offers a similar service to BookHopper but this time for the US rather than the UK market. Being US-based though it has far more members than BookHopper and at the time of writing boasted over 5 million available books for you to receive.

PaperbackSwap however does have a small number of differences to BookHopper besides the obvious geographical one. Firstly you only start to earn credits with PaperBackSwap after sending out ten books while you earn credits instantly with BookHopper meaning that using PaperBackSwap it will be some time before you can actually start to receive books yourself.

However PaperBackSwap does try to make life as easy as possible for it’s members and I particularly liked the way that they not only provide “book wrappers” for any successful swap that you can print out with the recipients address on to save time but that you can also print your postage straight from their site rather than having to stand in line at the post office as you do with BookHopper.

Click here to visit PaperBackSwap.


readitswapitReadItSwapIt is an online marketplace for UK peer-to-peer book swaps. Unlike PaperBackSwap or BookHopper with their credit-based system, ReadItSwapIt uses a system where if a user requests one of your second-hand books you need to select one of their in exchange meaning you are far more limited on the choices of books you can receive from an exchange.

That’s not to say that ReadItSwapIt is a worthless service – far from it many members quickly become raving fans of the website – but rather that if your interests are a little more esoteric than the latest fiction novels you may find the pickings a little slimmer here than on some other competing sites.

Click here to visit ReadItSwapIt.


booksfreeswapBooksFreeSwap is a book swapping site for US bookworms with the major difference being that the person receiving a book from you actually pays for the shipping and handling. In some ways this lessens your risk because with some other book exchanging sites you pay to send out a book when someone requests it putting you out of pocket straight away. Equally this means you’re likely to think twice before requesting any available books because you know there are costs involved for you no matter how small.

Like PaperBackSwap – which is run by the same company – it’s possible to print out labels for books you’re sending off which come with the recipients address as well as the postage paid – to make it as easy as possible for you to recycle books.

Click here to visit BooksFreeSwap.


bookmoochBookMooch is possibly the most exciting of all the book swapping websites as a way to recycle books because it is the only service which is truly international in flavor. Rather than being UK-based like BookHopper or US-based like PaperBackSwap this is one book recycling service open to anyone from any country – indeed the website itself is even available in a huge range of languages including German, Spanish and Italian.

Utilizing a points-based system for flexibility you won’t just earn credits for sending off books to other members but you’ll even earn credits simply by listing your books as available. For anyone looking to reduce the number of books they have at home rather than simpy to swap unwanted books for new, unread titles with BookMooch you can “donate” your credits to other people.

In this way you can list all the books you want to recycle, earn credits by sending them out and then donate these credits to worthy causes – schools, hospitals and libraries for example – who can then use your credits to grow their own collection of books free of charge.

Click here to visit BookMooch.

How To Recycle Books By Giving Them Away

Lastly if you just want to recycle books without getting anything back except the warm glow of knowing you’ve saved the production of further books there are numerous “freecycling” websites which you can list your old unwanted books at for other eco-minded individuals to search through and choose from.

We have a whole article listing numerous freecycling websites here on Eco Living Advice which you can check out here.

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5 thoughts on “11 Ways To Recycle Books

  1. Now that I think about it, its been years since I've actually purchased a book. The last couple books I read were borrowed from a friend, and in exchange he borrowed a few of my books. So I'm already on the right track here. Trees are a precious resource, although I think newspapers are the biggest culprit here when it comes to wasting paper. Thankfully the internet is slowly replacing newspapers and eventually (a long ways down the road of course, as technology advances) humans will actually stop the mass manufacturing of millions of daily papers when the information can be copied infinitely via 1's and 0's.

    The also been utilizing "ebooks" recently; for the first time in my life I read an entire novel on my Android smartphone, using Google's book-reading app. I was surprised to find that after just a few pages, I became engrossed in the book and basically forgot that I wasn't holding an actual paper book in my hand. I intend to continue to read books in this fashion…

  2. Great article.

    I have always been one to swap books with friends, but it still doesn't help with the mad clutter in my house! I always seem to end up with a large pile of books.

    II recently wrote a post on how Amazon has launched a trade-in scheme where you can exchange your old textbooks, school and University ones for cash. I've actually been able to make a significant amount of money from it.


  3. I’m moving out and as you can imagine I really need to recycle a huge part of the tons of books I own. I’ve already given some away and sold others on ebay, but ebay, as you say, was too complicated and not worthy for me. So I much appreciate the tips about the Amazon free seller account and the BookMooch swapping web site. Thanks for sharing


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