General Question

Jeruba's avatar

What to do with a used encyclopedia?

Asked by Jeruba (52934points) July 14th, 2009

It’s a good one, Britannica, used, but in excellent condition, nice gold-stamped binding, etc. 1992. Is there any chance that a school or other institution might want it? I do think children should know something about how to look things up in a book, and there is plenty of information in it that is still current and good.

Have you ever heard of someone’s successfully placing one? Do people sell them? I didn’t even think of parting with it until tonight, but I can no longer afford the space. Now I’m faced with figuring out how to move it out of my life and hoping for some useful suggestions.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

27 Answers

chelseababyy's avatar

Send it to me.

Tink's avatar

lurve for the tags
I’d say to take it to a local bookshop and ask them

Aethelwine's avatar

I’m sure Goodwill will find a happy buyer.

eponymoushipster's avatar

save it for autumn, have a bitchin’ bonfire.

chelseababyy's avatar


chelseababyy's avatar

You could probably take it to a middle school or something. For when kids do reports and stuff.

YARNLADY's avatar

We donated ours to the school for homeless children here, called “Mustard Seed”. You might see if you have similar in your neighborhood. You could also try Freecycle

augustlan's avatar

Do you have a good used bookstore nearby? If so, give them a call. If no book store, school or club wants it, you could also use it’s pages for an awesome collage or decoupage project!

Aethelwine's avatar

@augustlan Great idea! A 20th century Wordle.

Jeruba's avatar

@jonsblond, lurve for Wordle.

Thanks for the creative idea, @augustlan, but I do not have it in me to rip up a book. I just couldn’t do it.

augustlan's avatar

I’ve never done it either, Jeruba. I collect antique encyclopedias, primers, math books, etc. I just display them stacked on my end table shelves. :)

arnbev959's avatar

Sadly, there are very few people who are interested in owning an old encyclopedia set.

I was helping out with a book sale at my town’s library a few months ago, and a few encyclopedia sets came in. The set that was newest and in the best condition was saved for the sale, and the rest were thrown away, because they simply don’t sell. I took a set home, because I couldn’t bear to see it thrown away. The one that was saved for the sale didn’t sell. And I wouldn’t have taken a set if it hadn’t been free.

Used bookstores are worth a try, but I’ve spent enough time in my local bookstore to know that they probably don’t want them. They really aren’t worth anything. If you decide to donate them to Goodwill or someplace similar, make sure they actually want them.

Your best bet would probably be to post them on craigslist, and hope that someone wants them. Perhaps with a threat attached, something like “will be thrown out in 30 days if no interest is shown.” I know if I saw a threat like that I would grab them.

whatthefluther's avatar

I don’t know if it is still the case, but several years ago, our little local library, known as the Los Angeles City Public Library, accepted book donations from which they would either incorporate them into the library system or forward them to various causes or charities. You might check with your local library for a similar program. See ya….wtf

janbb's avatar

Sometimes libraries will take donations for sale; I can’t imagine any but the poorest wanting to incorporate an encyclopedia that old into their collection. That said, our community college sends some of the books we delete from our collection to a charity called “Books for a Better World” that sends books to Africa nd other developing nations. You might call your local community college and see if they do something similar or just Google “Books for a Better World” or “book donation organizations.”

Another possibility is a used book jobber like Moe’s Books in San Francisco. By the way, if you do donate to a library, they will usually give you an acknowledgement for tax purposes but not put a value in it. Good luck!

EmpressPixie's avatar

Get in touch with anyone you know who is a teacher—chances are, they won’t want it because honestly it’s super old, but in less affluent areas, this may be the only way that teacher has to get a set for their classroom.

Beyond that, I would take it to the thrift store if it is in good condition. They might just toss it though. Sadly.

JLeslie's avatar

Look at my father is in the book business and he sells a lot on that website.

answerjill's avatar

Join and give it away there?

Saturated_Brain's avatar

Believe it or not, people will buy it. Believe it or not, people will read it.

I should know. I have a set of encyclopedias as old as I am, and I used to pore over them voraciously.

Of course, that was six years ago… I rarely look at them now, but I know my brother does.

cwilbur's avatar

Old encyclopedias go through a phase where they are simply outdated, and then they go through a phase where they are interesting from a historical perspective, and then they enter a phase where they are valuable historical documents.

One of my prized possessions is a set of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians from the 1920s. (1926, I think.) It’s amazing to peruse and see just what people thought of their contemporaries Schoenberg, Bartók, Stravinsky, and what people thought of people who had died recently like Mahler. And someday I hope to have a full set of the 1911 Encylopedia Britannica.

YARNLADY's avatar

@EmpressPixie A well run thrift store will box up all the books that don’t sell and send them to the paper recycle for a small profit.

RareDenver's avatar

A bonfire, there is nothing more satisfying than a good book burning ! ;-)

Darwin's avatar

Sometimes decorators want them because their bindings look nice, and there are a few people who use them to make furniture and such. However, selling a recent encyclopedia online really won’t work. I am a bookseller on, among other sites,, and you really can’t make any money off them. Even if they should sell, they cost well above the shipping allowance to send to the buyer.

You can try Freecycle and Craig’s List, or check with new and/or struggling small schools, but I suspect you may have to throw them away (oh, the horror!)

OTOH, you could wait until it is 100 years old and try again. ~

Or, here’s a thought! Go to Wal-Mart and buy something hefty, electronic and valuable, remove it carefully from the box so you can reseal it, and replace its weight with encyclopedia. Then return it for a refund, saying it doesn’t fit your stand, or whatever. Apparently everyone is doing it..

Then sell the electronic item. :~)

JLeslie's avatar

@Darwin That walmart example makes me sick. Just as bad as people wearing a dress for New Years eve and the returning it. My dad is MrBook on Amazon, he sells a lot on there also. The decorator thing is a great idea.

Jeruba's avatar

[Update] I offered it for sale but had no takers. It’s a beautiful edition, with gold-stamped leather binding, gold-edged pages, and high-quality paper that feels rich to the touch.

I phoned the elementary school that both of my sons had attended years ago and spoke to the secretary. My pitch was that they are beautiful books with great illustrations, gently used but intact and unspoiled; that some information does not go out of date (species of birds, biography of George Washington, mountains of Tibet); and that kids could learn to use and handle such books without teachers’ having to worry about them.

She called me back and said that the third-grade teachers were all excited because that’s the year when they teach using the encyclopedia (hurray! they still teach it), and if they could find a place for my 30 volumes, they would share it.

Two weeks later they came and picked it up. And the secretary volunteered that she would put a plate in each volume naming us as the donors.

I was very sad to see it go, but it is great to know it will have a new life in the hands of kids who may never have seen a book like that before. If just one kid gets hooked on the pictures of rocks and minerals or becomes fascinated with the flags of the world (as I was) or loves the feel of those strong, thin pages and those embossed leather bindings and begins to notice what a book has over a computer screen, I’m satisfied.

Darwin's avatar

I am glad it found a good home.

whatthefluther's avatar

@Jeruba…..What a wonderful new home! Thanks for the update. See ya….Gary/wtf

augustlan's avatar

Such a happy ending!

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther