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Old technical books - usable as firewood?

I have a few dozen technical books taking up space which I'll almost certainly never have use for again.  Books on VB 5.0, Java 1.1, HTML 3.0, Oracle7, etc. Got any good ideas of what do with them, other than just dumping them in the trash? I considered donating them to the local library, but that would be a waste of their limited shelf space.

T. Norman
Saturday, March 27, 2004

If you find out, post the answer here. I've cataloged several dozen books (which cost me hundreds of dollars in their day) that I can find no way, rhyme or reason for disposing of in a responsible way.

The funny thing is, even some "theoretical" CS type books that you would think would have enduring value probably aren't that attractive anymore. Example: I have several books on image processing (nowadays, everyone uses a library or some OSS module); serial communications (USB and ethernet killed this off for all but legacy purposes); several other books on OOP centered on C++ - still worthwhile but everything's gone to Java or C# for instruction purposes; a book on compiler design (Allen Holub's), which I see still gets a reasonable $ value on the used book market but is based on C and uses no off ths shelf tools. It too offends my sense of value and equity to just trash the lot. So they sit in the basement, taking up space.

I've thought of picking the "best" books out of the lot, making "bundles" of related subjects out of them, and posting the bundle on Ebay as a complete set, take it or leave it.

Bored Bystander
Saturday, March 27, 2004

I thought about eBay too, but with the shipping costs they probably can't even be sold for 1 cent!

Like the subject of the thread says, I wonder if they will burn cleanly and completely in a fireplace.

T. Norman
Saturday, March 27, 2004

I donate mine to the local library. Historical reference I guess?? I get to do a tax write off of the donation if I like. Just about to take a stack of old Oracle books there today.

Jeff
Saturday, March 27, 2004

I'm about to truck down to my nearest used book store and dump them for dollars per pound of paper.  It's hard, but they're really no more valuable than paperbacks after a couple years.  I've pretty stopped buying technical books extreme for extremely theoretical ones for just this reason.

Unless anyone wants the complete O'Reilly set to Perl 5 on Win32.  Or the original Java AWT book.

The sad fact is that the Internet is a better reference than a good technical library, especially if it's combined with something like O'Reilly's Safari network (I hope to see more offerings like this in the future).

Justin Johnson
Saturday, March 27, 2004

I dump mine at Goodwill and claim a couple hundred a year for them on my taxes.

Rick
Saturday, March 27, 2004

For reference, nowadays the Internet is indeed a better resource.  But when it comes to learning new topics that involve a couple hundred pages of reading, I find that a book is a lot easier on the eyes and body than spending so many hours at a computer screen (after having already spent so much time at the office).

T. Norman
Saturday, March 27, 2004

List it on craigslist for free. Someone will call you within 24 hours (this only works in a craigslist-serviced metro)

curious
Saturday, March 27, 2004


I still have "DOS 5 Techniques and Utilities" by Jeff Prosise and a couple of Norton's books on Assembly Language. They were some of my first programming books for the PC and I can't bear to throw them away

For the rest of them, I carted them down to Half Price Books and sold them for a few bucks. (I would have given them away, but this way I made enough to buy some coffee while I shopped there!)

It was tough at first to chuck them, but like you said, if you don't then you end up with bookshelves littered with useless books.

Mark Hoffman
Saturday, March 27, 2004

DOS and Assembly Language are still useful. It's the Windows 3.1 and  OS2 books that you can throw away

Stephen Jones
Saturday, March 27, 2004

This reminds me of the conversation with someone on this board a while back about interviewing.  The guy claimed that he wouldn't hire somebody if they hadn't bought any books recently.

Glad to know there's other people on this forum that have been around more than a few years.  I could've had a really nice mountain bike instead of shelves full of obsolete programming books. 


Saturday, March 27, 2004

Your local public library might take them, not to put on their shelves but for books sales to raise money.

You can probably find several local charitible organizations that run book sales to raise money and will take whatever you give them. 

mackinac
Saturday, March 27, 2004

Norman,

Bella posted such a topic around a year or so back, do a search.

Prakash S
Saturday, March 27, 2004

I still haven't found anything about whether they're useful in place of firewood.

T. Norman
Saturday, March 27, 2004

No, they'll foul your fireplace or stovepipe.

I sell a lot of books through Amazon - usually a month or two after I've bought them from Amazon.    I get from 50-70% of the purchase price usually. 


Saturday, March 27, 2004

when I was in high school, my friend and I would go to the library and dig up old out of date computer books and buy them for $.50 a pop.  We didn't have money to buy expensive books, and we were trying to learn as much as we could. I'm sure those books are useful to some people. 

vince
Saturday, March 27, 2004

Ha, when I was in high school I got this great book on principles of compiler design (the book with the green dragon on the cover) from my library for 5 cents.  It's still a handy reference.

K
Saturday, March 27, 2004

Recently I paid closing on $100 for some mid-80s issues of Compute!, and the same for another block of mid-80s Compute! Gazettes. These things often regain value to people who read them years ago, and want it on their bookshelf for retro purposes.

Dennis Forbes
Saturday, March 27, 2004

If they really are old don't donate them to the library. I used to work in a library and we would routinely throw donations in the bin - as they were obviously useless.

There are often programs where you can donate your books to big charity booksales. Ask the library and they will put you in touch with it.

Matthew Lock
Sunday, March 28, 2004

By some coincidence I had the television on last night when announcements of local events came on.  One was the annual AAUW book sale. I don't know what they might take in donations, but a Google search might locate one near you.

mackinac
Sunday, March 28, 2004

With old computer books you have the same problem you have with old computers.

There are plenty of organizaitons and people in the Third World who would love to have them, but the cost of getting them there and distributing them is greater than the value.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, March 28, 2004

I chuck all my old books on eBay, at $1 no reserve. If someone is willing to pay shipping, let them have it! It's better than throwing it out or burning it.

Occasionally I've been very surprised by the price a book fetches. There might be someone out there who has to support an old Oracle installation or whatever, and your book would really be of use to them. Even better, there might be two such people, and they'll bid against each other and drive your price up :-).

The net is great for learning about current stuff, but if you're stuck on an older version of some piece of software or language, it's often hard to find useful information online. In this situation, old books can be invaluable.

Darren Collins
Sunday, March 28, 2004

About what % of the books that you put on eBay actually got a buyer? I did a search on eBay for some of the books I want to get rid of, and found quite a few sellers of the same books but none had bidders ...

T. Norman
Sunday, March 28, 2004

"We burn them to ashes and then burn the ashes. That's our official motto."


Monday, March 29, 2004

I never throw old technical books away. I even buy them from friends and local stores (my last shopping is a book about the 6502).

I love reading old books. They make me feel "smarter" and help me understand the genesis of nowadays' technologies and I always discover interesting ideas that are worth the money I paid to get them. Most of these ideas are about how to do more with less (remember those old days when a super fast PC had only a 16 MHz clock).

Jordan
Monday, March 29, 2004

I've been afraid to get rid of tech books ever since a dusty book on Hypercard came in handy a few years back.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, March 29, 2004

Old books don't make good firewood.  I had some old OS/2, QBasic, and DOS books.  I sent them to recycling so they can become the next generation of tech books.

Bill Rushmore
Monday, March 29, 2004

... oh yeah, I tried to burn one.  Bad idea.  Left too many ashes and from I learned don't think the by burned products are so good for the air.

Bill Rushmore
Monday, March 29, 2004

The world would be much better off if you recycle the books rather than burn them.

I'm thinking of making a safe out of an old DOS reference book. Glue the pages together and cut out the center and store stuff. No one would ever consider opening up a book on writing DOS device drivers or somesuch.

However, I wish I could still find my old copy of the IBM PC Technical Reference manual...

pdq
Monday, March 29, 2004

Actually, burning books isn't that bad because it's merely completing the carbon cycle and letting the trees do the recycling for you.  Burning petrol/coal/etc., that's bad.  ;)

I do burn books and other things recreationally (although not technical books....yet), for roughly the same reason as the burning man folks do crazy stuff in the middle of the desert once a year.  Well, the reason other than drug consumption...

The big thing is that you want to burn the book completely.  It's actually harder than you think because the book is dense enough paper that it doesn't want to burn in the same way that crumpled-up newspaper does.

In order to not exceed the secondary-combustion capacity of the fire, you want to burn only one book at a time.  You also want to make sure that you get a good hot wood (not fake-fire-log "duraflame" log) fire going and keep it going for a while afterwards. If you do it right, it will burn completely leaving only gray ash and no notable residue.  It may mean that you develop creosote faster, but I haven't really spent much time thinking about it.

Although it might be tempting, potentially theraputic, and definately good for maintaining a slightly surreal air to the great sendoff, do not roast mashmallows over your burning book, lest the not-designed-to-be-burned inks and cover-plasticizers and glues cause you internal distress.  You are encouraged, if you so desire, to give your book a "last meal" of your favored 80+ proof alchaholic beverage.

w.h.
Monday, March 29, 2004

I like pdq's idea of turning it into a book safe. You could even use the inside to smuggle drugs and thusbcontribute to human happiness.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

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