How to Start a Used Book Exchange

How to Start a Used Book Exchange

Used book exchanges are a great way to share information within the local community. Planning the details of the book exchange in writing is important. Simply winging it may create unnecessary problems and expenses. Giving the book exchange some structure will help define the book club goals. Here are some tips on how to start a used book exchange.

Written Plan

Write a statement or purpose that discloses 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 being a member of a specific home owners association.

If the exchange is open to everyone? Think about which members of the community will be most likely to respond to this invitation. Start with flyers in book stores, coffee shops, college dorms, libraries, and in local businesses. Will the exchange be completely in person, online, or both?


The creator of the exchange is in charge. It is up to the creator to decide if all books are accepted, or if it caters to a specific type. This may be sci-fi, romance, historical romance, mystery, thriller, nonfiction, self help, religious, hobby, or how to books.


Know exactly what the costs are to run the used book exchange. There may be numerous local businesses that will agree to store the books and host meetings for free. Some locations may be able to accommodate a specific number of guests and provide refreshments for a flat rate per event. Established organizations may already have access to one or more areas to host members of the exchange. There are many buffet restaurants that have private rooms available to 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 there is limited funds and no venues are willing to host for free try other options. Consider reserving a room in a local community center, neighborhood coffee house, or public library. Go to the Chamber of Commerce and ask for a list of venues that have very inexpensive rental rates.

Visit more than one location to find the best location to hold the exchange. The book exchange may be at a different public place each month. It could be held at a different member’s home each month. Become creative if there is no funding for the hosting of book exchange events.


How will excess books be stored? The book exchange is based on the idea that one or more books can traded for another book. This idea will not stop people from bringing multiple books. Established businesses may donate hundreds of books unexpectedly to the book exchange.

Book Storage

Decide in advance exactly how extra books will be cared for. Ensure that the storage conditions are conducive to not destroying the books. Leaving the books in an opened bag or unsealed bin may cause damage if anything is spilled accidentally or there is too much moisture in the air.

Annual Sale

When there are too many books for any one member to comfortably store, will there be a book sale? This open to the public sale can help attract new members and provide profits. These profits can be used for a special event or to add multiple copies of a certain book for a book club or further discussion. The money raised can help offset costs for book exchange events. Decide in advance if the book exchange is for profit or non profit. Profits made over a certain amount may need to be deposited into an account in the Book Exchange name. Contact an accountant or lawyer for help setting up a legal structure.

Online Presence

Create an online presence by setting up a blog and social networking account. The blog lets the public know when the exchange is held, and how donations are accepted. Use twitter to update public of new events, blog posts, and book requests. Log onto the social networking websites and put out a few different friend requests each day with people that have similar interest. These are the interests that are in alignment with the written purpose of the exchange. Create an email address to receive all incoming inquires. Purchase a domain name so the blog and email address appears professional. There is software available to allow registered users to exchange books over the internet.

Start a club on Face Book or other social networking platforms. When local people look for a book exchange they can easily find out information. Don’t be afraid to reach out to group members online. Ask critical thinking questions related to a specific book or author. The comments and replies will bring more attention to the group. Be professional and treat all members and comments respectfully. Use these tips to help start a thriving used exchange.