How to Start a Used Book Exchange

How to Start a Used Book Exchange

A used book exchange is a great way to share information within your local community. Planning the details of the book exchange in writing is important. Simply winging it can create unnecessary trouble and expense. Providing some structure to the book exchange will help define the goals of the book club. Here are some tips on how to start a used book swap.

A written plan

Write a statement or objective that reveals the goals and purpose of the book exchange. Decide who the book exchange is for. Is the book exchange public or private? Established organizations can create a book club that will allow members and their families to participate. Examples or established organizations are schools, clubs, religious organizations, and membership in a specific homeowner’s association.

If the exchange is open to all? Consider which community members are most likely to respond to this invitation. Start by fliers in bookstores, coffee shops, dormitories, libraries, and local businesses. Will the exchange be entirely in-person, online, or both?


The creator of the exchange is responsible. It’s up to the creator if all books are accepted or if they apply to a specific type. This could be science fiction, romance, historical romance, mystery, thriller, non-fiction, self-help, religious, hobby or books.


Know exactly what it costs to run a used book fair. There may be many local businesses that will agree to store the books and arrange meetings for free. Some venues may be able to accommodate a certain number of guests and provide refreshments for a fixed price per event. Established organizations may already have access to one or more zones to host exchange members. There are many buffet restaurants that have private rooms for groups. The management may give a group discount if the event is held on a certain day of the week when business is usually slow.

Low budget

If funds are limited and there are no places willing to host for free, try other options. Consider reserving a room at a local community center, neighborhood coffee shop, or public library. Go to the Chamber of Commerce and ask for a list of places that have very cheap rental rates.

Visit more than one location to find the best place to host the exchange. The book exchange may be at a different public location each month. May be held each month at a different member’s home. Be creative if there is no funding to hold book exchange events.


How will excess books be stored? Book exchange is based on the idea that one or more books can be exchanged for another book. This idea will not stop people from carrying several books. Established businesses can unexpectedly donate hundreds of books to the book exchange.

Book storage

Decide in advance exactly how the extra books will be cared for. Make sure that the storage conditions are favorable so that the books are not destroyed. Leaving books in an open bag or unsealed container can cause damage if something is accidentally spilled or there is too much moisture in the air.

Annual sale

When there are too many books for each member to store comfortably, will there be a book sale? This open to public sale can help attract new members and provide profits. These winnings can be used for a special event or to add multiple copies of a particular book for a book club or further discussion. Money raised can help offset the costs of book exchange events. Decide in advance whether the book exchange is for-profit or non-profit. Winnings above a certain amount may be required to be deposited into an account in the name of Book Exchange. Contact an accountant or attorney for help setting up a legal structure.

Online presence

Create an online presence by creating a blog and social network account. The blog lets the public know when the swap is taking place and how donations are accepted. Use twitter to inform the public about new events, blog posts and book requests. Log on to social networking websites and post a few different friend requests each day to people who have a similar interest. These are the interests that are consistent with the written purpose of the exchange. Create an email address to receive all incoming inquiries. Buy a domain name so that the blog and email address look professional. There is software available that allows registered users to exchange books over the Internet.

Create a club on Face Book or other social networking platforms. When local people search for book exchanges, they can easily find information. Don’t be afraid to contact group members online. Ask critical thinking questions related to a specific book or author. Comments and replies will attract more attention to the group. Be professional and treat all members and comments with respect. Use these tips to start a thriving secondhand market.

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