Used Book Collection Bins Are Filling Up

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From BookRiot:

If you live in the United States, you have seen collection bins in grocery store parking lots. Collection bins for clothes are the most common. But did you know there are also donation bins for books?

My husband works in a grocery store, and about a month ago he noticed that the book collection bins were overflowing. More than overflowing—several stacks of books had appeared around the collection bin and it had just started to rain. He’s a book lover, and he hates to see good books get ruined, so he talked to his manager and got permission to haul the pile indoors to await collection. His manager called the company, Big Hearted Books & Clothing, to come get their donations.

But there was a problem: Big Hearted Books never showed up and, it turned out, would not be showing up.

. . . .

Big Hearted Books & Clothing, of Canton, Massachusetts, declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy this spring. The company’s assets are being sold off by a trustee, and those proceeds are being used to pay the company’s creditors.

The company’s closure is a loss for New England readers. Big Hearted Books’s more than 1,000 donation containers have served as repositories for the region’s unwanted and used books since 2009. The company, a for-profit, collected the books, donated some, sold others, and recycled the balance.

The company’s website cites embezzlement by an employee as the reason for its bankruptcy (complete with that employee’s name and a photograph) and Worcester attorney James P. Ehrhard, who has represented Big Hearted Books during the bankruptcy proceedings, confirmed that embezzlement was a contributing factor.

. . . .

When it became obvious that the pile of books in the grocery store was not going to be picked up, the store manager asked my husband if he could get rid of the books. Full disclosure: our family took what we wanted from the pile, and brought everything else to our local Friends of the Library group for their annual book sale. We discovered that they too were talking about Big Hearted Books.

“We don’t have any storage space, so at the end of the sale we have to find places for these books,” said Del Shilkret, president of Friends of the Granby Public Library.

Turns out, many local Friends groups in the Friends of the Connecticut Library organization relied on Big Hearted Books.

. . . .

At Farmington’s last library sale, Big Hearted Books removed seven gaylords—large pallet boxes—for free.

That’s a service one of its competitors charges for, and one that’s tremendously helpful to the volunteers who run book sales, many of whom are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s and can’t do a lot of hauling themselves—especially after a long sale.

“Our problem is now: what do we do with these leftover books?” said Chapron. She joked that donating books can be either very easy or very difficult and this year, donating books may be on the difficult side for Library Friends in the Northeast.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

In a heretical mood, PG suggests that at some point, used books become trash.

He understands that someone somewhere might be interested in reading one of the used books, but wouldn’t digital be a far better alternative? No bins in the parking lot, no fossil fuel expended transporting used books from the bin to wherever, etc., etc.

A lot less in the landfill and recycling electrons is orders of magnitude more efficient than recycling dead trees.

5 thoughts on “Used Book Collection Bins Are Filling Up”

  1. “In a heretical mood, PG suggests that at some point, used books become trash.”

    A daringly heterodox position. Or, in the alternative, exactly what the linked article said:

    “The company, a for-profit, collected the books, donated some, sold others, and recycled the balance.”

    Spinning this as a “paper books suck!” story is predictable, but it actually is an entirely different story. A company found a business model around providing a service. It was so successful that many organizations came to depend on it. The company then failed for reasons unrelated to the business model. The organizations that had come to depend on it will have to figure out how to operate without this company.

    There may be a moral here, but it is more about relying on a single vendor than it is about the relative virtue of paper versus electronic books.

  2. First agents and now collectors, it’s getting where you can’t trust anyone to keep the (money)books straight …

  3. A lot of people make their living or supplement their incomes selling used books. You can’t do that with ebooks.

    There are organizations that collect books for prison libraries.

    But I agree that some books become trash. Who needs the zillions of copies of best sellers than no one reads anymore?

  4. I hate paper. I’m almost entirely cloud-based and paperless in my day job and writing life. I read news and social media on my phone and laptop. I sell more eBooks than any other form. Yet, I absolutely hate reading eBooks. I only read paperbacks and listen to a lot of Audible. I have a massive library of shelves lined with books. I’m ridiculous. I know. Give me paper books or give me death.

  5. A friend has been going crazy trying to get rid of boxes and boxes of very nice travel books from her parents, since her mother was moving into assisted living. These are full of glossy photos of mountains and other scenic spots, “coffee table” books that her parents were convinced were worth money. Her brother lives in Chicago and said used books are treated as trash locally, so she was glad that Half Price Books is operating in the Seattle area. Two van loads of books netted about $75 so far.

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