Cleaning out clutter: Finding a second home for your used books

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Have a collection of Harry Potter hardbacks taking up space on your shelves? Second Story Books ( might be willing to take them off your hands. The local bookseller, with locations in the District and Rockville, is interested in books on almost every subject but prefers less common topics such as military history, math and engineering.

Things the shop won't buy include textbooks, mass-market paperbacks, out-of-date fiction and encyclopedias. But Harry Potter books and children's classics, such as Dr. Seuss and Curious George, are a safe bet, as are philosophy books and cookbooks, says David Hammann of Second Story. "We're always interested in Julia Child."

For an online option, try Powell's Books ( Based in Portland, Ore., the new and used bookseller will buy just about any title, and the people there make the process easy: Type in a book's ISBN number (usually on the back cover), and they'll tell you if it's a title they need and how much they will pay for it. Expect $1 or $2 for popular fiction paperbacks and $10, $20 or more for specialized academic or technical titles, says Hillary Smith, director of used books. (Powell's will buy textbooks, but they must be the current edition.) Payment is typically issued within one to two weeks through PayPal or through an online credit that can be used at the bookseller's Web site. The bonus: Powell's pays for shipping, too. "Our goal is to keep books circulating," says Smith, "so we want it to be simple."

-- T.S.

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