Rereading and Recycling Used Books

Used bookstores are an important part of the re-reading and eventually, the recycling process for books. Here in Metro Vancouver, we have a great network of used bookstores, thrift stores, and Little Libraries to complete the mix of potential places we can bring our books when we finish reading and want to pass them on to their next reader. Western Sky Books prioritizes working within those existing networks in the Tri-Cities. As the only used bookstore in the immediate area, we are uniquely placed to help our customers and neighbours figure out how to get their books passed on, and where that appropriately might be.

When a book has meaning for you and your family, it can be hard to send it to recycling. As well, we spend a lot of money on our book collections, so it can be disheartening to think about that cost not being valued. Still, books are commodities that have shelf-lives, just like any other consumer item. Keeping them in great shape means they will have a place in the rereading cycle. Most times, but not always. So let’s take a deep breath and figure out where to send our books.

First up: Recycling is work.

The more stuff we have, the more work we do to get the stuff out of our house. We spend a lot of time sorting, sorting, sorting. The recycling systems are complicated and require us to pay attention to details. Sometimes, we just want to get the stuff out, and out now, so we put everything in a box, load up the SUV, bring it to the nearest thrift store, and wash our hands of it. The thing is, this just passes on the work of sorting to the local non-profit volunteers or paid staff to do. Which costs time and money and undermines the fundraising potential of passing along your stuff to a charity. A question we can ask ourselves is: ‘If I saw this at a garage sale or a thrift store, would I buy it?’ If the answer is no, then the item, in this case the book, should probably not go in the ‘go to charity’ or ‘go to the used bookstore’ box. If you tend to bring your belongings to one of the larger chain thrift stores, here’s a question to ask yourself: do you know what happens to items they cannot sell? If you don’t know the answer to that, then it is worth it to ask. You will often find staff do not know or will give you conflicting information. In this case, there is a high likelihood the items will go to the dump. So the time, gas, and labour costs involved might just be an indication that it would be better to deal with the disposal ourselves, especially if we care about our carbon footprint.

Here’s something most of us don’t know: books are not, as a rule, recyclable. This is due to the various glues, bindings, and processes in making the covers in particular. Books placed in blue boxes eventually  go to the dump. You can remove covers, spiral bindings and staples, and then cut the spine which has glue attached, put all that in the garbage, then put the loose pages in the blue bin. But realistically, most of us are not going to do those things. Sometimes we will, but most times we won’t.

A note about condition

We all have them. Books that are well read, well loved, coffee or jam stained, water damaged, with torn pages, marked up and draw in. In any case, as great as these books and the stories they tell may be, no matter how much we enjoyed them, they should not be sent to thrift stores or used bookstores. Instead, they can be sorted to send for pulping. Here in Port Coquitlam, we have the great option of bringing these books to the local recycler, Happy Stan’s. They have white bins specifically for books in the parking lot when you pull in, and they send those books to Cascades, a Canadian paper recycler and manufacturer, for pulping.

Remember your 3-Rs? Aside from ‘rereading,’ we can also ‘repurpose’ books. Books in bad condition are fabulous material for all kinds of art and craft projects.

Now you’ve sorted your books and you still have a box or two or three which are in reasonable condition for rereading. What’s next?

Where to bring your used books

Used Bookstores:

A Little Library
Here is a map to find a Little Library in the Tri-Cities. Port Coquitlam has several new Little Libraries this year, as a special project of Avenues of Change (Coquitlam River) (West Coast Family Centres)

These local charities:

  • Trinity United Church Thrift Store
  • Eagle Ridge Hospital Thrift Store
  • Share Community Services Thrift Store
  • Crossroads Thrift Store

Large/Chain Thrift Stores:

  • Value Village
  • Salvation Army

A note about libraries

It is always best to call  your local library to ask what they accept. Each local library has their own criteria. Please note that when you simply drop off books at your local library, there is no guarantee it will end up on the shelves or in a  book sale. It also creates  work for librarians and other staff and volunteers. Here is the information provided by each of the Tri-Cities libraries in case you are looking to support your local library with a donation of books.

You will find that if you go to the Metro Vancouver Recycles page, they recommend you drop your books in a Discover Books book bin. There are several of these  blue book bins around the Lower Mainland. Discover Books has a local hub in New Westminster to process books. It is an American company, but even so, they are an important part of the local book recycling system.  They sell books online and books which are not resellable do get sent for pulping. Their main centres are in Washington State, and when you order books from them, they come from Washington too.

Where to sell your used books

Hemingway Books and The Bookman, well-established used bookstores in Abbotsford, offer cash (and credit) for books

If you have a camera and some basic computer skills, you can sell your books online. Check out the range in price by using BookFinder. They list all of the ‘bookselling’ places online.

  • Facebook: your own or a family member’s wall or through a Bidding page or at Facebook Marketplace
  • Craigslist: there is a brisk and steady trade in used books on craigslist.
  • AbeBooks: used and antiquarian booksellers use Abe Books to post and sell their books which have more value in them. They also have a great textbook buyback page. You can set your own shipping rates at AbeBooks, too.
  • Amazon, Biblio, and Ebay:  Set up your account and start selling. Just remember that shipping will often cost more then their  set limits, so your book selling price might need to absorb the costs of shipping.

Are you downsizing? We have found Maxsold to be helpful for local families that hope to get some of the cash value from their belongings, including books. See their website for more information.

A few more things to think about

  • Textbooks older than two years old. If you think a texbook has value, try selling it on your school social media boards, through facebook, or even craigslist. There is also the option of checking to see if AbeBooks textbook buy back system will take the book. Textbooks go out of date quickly, so only the larger thrift stores and some specialty used bookstores can take them in. If in doubt, or if you are not able or willing to do the research, it is best to send your textbooks to pulp.
  • Encyclopedia, Reference series (including children’s reference): Used to be, our parents and grandparents gathered these reference books for our homes. These volumes are often very well made and look nice too. And the information in them is still relevant and useful. Still, most families do not use them now. Nor do a lot of us have the space to keep them. Once again, if you have the time, skill set and inclination, do try a resell site of your choice. Otherwise, we recommend Happy Stan’s.
  • Old Magazines: check with your doctor’s office, your child’s daycare or school teacher or even the local Brownie pack . They may be able to take old magazines. Some used bookstores do too. So once, more, it is worth it to make some phone calls or send some emails of inquiry. In most cases though, you can put those magazines right into the blue bin or include them with the books you take to the recycler
  • Colouring and Activity Books: Your child only drew on or coloured one or two pages, or they made the figurine that came with the book but the book is still in good condition. Even so, it cannot be resold at a used bookstore and even most thrift stores. These books are worth a try at a Little Library, but if you notice it is still there after a week or so, then it is best to take it and place it in the stack to do go pulping.
  • DVD’s/VHS tapes/Cassette Tapes: Did the book came with a DVD or CD? Do you have that DVD or CD? Is the DVD/CD usable? Unless the book itself is in very good condition, and the material is somehow now available online, these items are not going to sell. So the book goes to pulping, the CD/DVD goes to electronic recycling. The only exception to this will be audiobooks. Please do bring audiobooks in any format, in to the used bookstore.
  • Strip cover books: books with no front cover, especially small paperbacks, are usually considered stolen, as they were likely removed from a new bookstore or publisher’s recycling stream. Still, there are a lot of them around. And no used bookstore or thrift store can sell them, and not many people will read a book without a cover. So send these books to pulp.

Local, B.C. Writers Delight with Summer Storytime Reads

Please enjoy our guest reviews by local writer and friend of the store, Jennifer Pownall

Caroll Simpson’s children’s books showcase her talents through vibrant artwork and the written word.  From stories of origin and adventure for young children in her Coastal Spirit Tales series, to sturdier volumes developed to engage infants and toddlers, her works utilize First Nations motifs and elements from the west coast.  Even in her board books there is a beautiful connection between the animals featured and the surrounding land or seascape, and embedded within the illustrations are familiar thematic images, further suggestive of the Indigenous mythos by which she is inspired.  Simpson’s reverential treatment of the art and stories of the First Peoples of the Northwest Coast is evident in these captivating works, and the additional information provided at the end of her picture books are an excellent resource for parents and educators to draw upon when seeking to deepen a discussion with children about nature or culture.

     Sarah and Michael Explore Port Coquitlam is as wonderfully local as a book can be.  Written and illustrated by a number of talented artists from the namesake city, this collection of stories has appeal for both kids and adults whether they are residents of PoCo or the Tri-Cities, have lived or spent time in Metro Vancouver, or are simply interested in historical accounts shared through the lens of a children’s book.  By using the common thread of the two young protagonists – as well as their friends and family – six different authors have scribed tales that examine some of the elements that have shaped Port Coquitlam.  From archaeological digs to visits from royalty, from terrible floods to the origins of landmarks, this anthology will spark community pride and encourage every reader to get out and explore!

Blowing Kisses and Fist Bumps, the first two picture books by children’s writer Jaime Windle, explain the steps involved in the perfect youthful gestures these titles promise.  Guiding the reader with step-by-step instructions, Windle’s delightful use of rhyme draws children in from the first sentence.  With an absorbing, conversational flair, these books will engage kids with sweet questions, entertaining details, and imaginative twists.  A great start to what will surely become a well-loved series, Blowing Kisses and Fist Bumps both demonstrate how the observation, examination, and description of the finest elements of any action can add up to more fun!

We wish to extend a big THANK YOU to Angela at What’s On! Port Coquitlam for publishing these reviews in the July/August 2018 issue of the magazine. 

Featured Book: A Tree for Teddy, by Sandra Walton

Sandra Walton’s A Tree for Teddy is a heartwarming story celebrating the most positive aspects of Christmas.  In a tale that harkens back to the 1940’s yet maintains a remarkably contemporary message, the reader will be delighted by this account of a boy’s lucky discovery of a lost holiday tree.  Following a move into the city after a significant loss, he and his mother set about to turn their rather drab winter into a colourful season they will always remember.  Through thoughtful ingenuity and loving cooperation, they not only turn a worn evergreen into a lovely Christmas tree, but also find a way to reconnect with one another and with what they have lost. ~Jennifer Pownall

You can find A Tree for Teddy in store and online.



The Doors are Open!

We’re open! We’re open!
The day we have been working toward has finally arrived! We can’t be more happy or excited to be your local indie bookstore!

If you can mind the mess, we are working hard to get all the books on the shelves. In the meantime, have some fun, dig around, in a box or two, you never know what treasure you’re going to find.

We’re open 10am-6pm Tuesday to Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sundays. If you come to the store and the lights are on but the door locked, just knock on the door, and we’ll come let you in.




Port Coquitlam Farmers Market ‘For the Love of Books’ Reading a Success!

Last Thursday, Western Sky Books hosted a reading featuring local, Tri-Cities writers, at the Port Coquitlam Farmers Market. The Market theme was “For the Love of Books.” Along with our usual bookselling stall at the market and alongside the Terry Fox Mobile Library team, writers read in two groups at the main stage. First up, Farida Somjee and Bev Gyori, reading excerpts of their fiction work. A while later, Jennifer Pownall, Pandora Ballard, and Nikki Hillman read their poetry and short fiction. Many thanks to both the Market and TriCity Wordsmiths for their help in creating a successful event!

Pandora Ballard

Bev Gyori

Farida Somjee

Jennifer Pownall

Tamara Gorin, MC

We look forward to hosting more literary events which feature local writers and authors!