Do You Keep Old Programming Books?

Photo by ailatan (flickr)
Photo by ailatan (flickr)

I knew HTML and learned ActionScript (actually ActionScript wasn’t out yet. Flash only had basic scripting support) , and around 1999 I wanted to learn Javascript. I ended up getting a book on Java, thinking it was Javascript. It didn’t take more than a day to figure out they’re completely different languages, but for some reason, I kept the book anyway. $30 was a lot of money at the time. I could of bought a used Playstation game, or saved it towards what would become the greatest console of all time, released 9/9/99. But – the book will be useful eventually, I told myself, and with that, on my bookshelf it went.

Today I walked by my bookshelf and there it was: Teach Yourself Java. The last time I opened this book was the day after I bought it, sometime in 1999. Even if I keep it, if I’d like to learn Java now, I would buy a new book anyway.

A lot of us keep books. Seeing our library physically grow feels good, even if we haven’t read most of the books in it, because we will eventually, right? Keeping reference books is one thing (though I never use mine, what with cheat and all) but most books should be traded or given away. Technical books especially, not only because they’re expensive, but because unlike novels and most other types of books, they become obsolete. But unless you seriously plan on re-reading them, even books that are cheap and timeless should be traded or given away.

Who doesn’t love a book fair? or going through a big box of books in a garage sale? If we all horde books, who would keep this circle going? So what can you do with your old books instead?

You can borrow books from the library instead of buying them. Not only does not pack ratting books save space, but the deadline of having to give it back provides an incentive to begin reading them ASAP. If I’m shopping online I tend to buy dozens of books at a time, become overwhelmed when they get here, and then not start a single one. Interestingly, the last 2-3 books I’ve read (and the one I’m reading now) have all been from the library, even though I have ~20 unread books I purchased months ago.

You can still keep track of what you’ve read by using services/apps like LivingSocial or Shelfari – or something simpler like your Amazon account or just an Excel or text file.

What Can You Do With Old Books?

One interesting thing people do is to just leave the book in a public place for somebody else to come and pick up. Unfortunately, while it sounds interesting, this isn’t recommended. Books left on the bus, train, a taxi or park bench might get trashed or destroyed more likely than they are to land in an interested prospect’s hands.

  • Books can be given to your local library, or perhaps a college or used book stores.
  • Sell them online (Craigslist) or at your (neighbor’s) garage sale.
  • Join a site like or where people swap books they’ve read. Also see Green Metropolis

Interesting post: Desert Island Bookshelf | SocialBookshelf

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>