Donating books

We couldn’t exist without book donations! However, there are certain kinds of books we always need and others we don’t. Before you donate, please check the guidelines below.

Also, spread the word! Post our most needed books flyer at your school, workplace, religious center, community board, or local store. Consider doing a book drive; we may be able to pick up the books, just contact us.

Dropping off books

Books can be brought in boxes or bags: 4722 Baltimore Avenue, Philadelphia, PA (directions). We can provide a receipt for tax purposes.

  • Drop-off hours: Tuesday nights, 7:30—9:30 PM or 1st and 3rd Saturdays, 11:00 AM—2:00 PM.
  • If you cannot come at these times, please email us to arrange a time; do not drop books off outside.

Book condition

Prisons have varying requirements for the kinds of books they will allow. Many do not allow hardcover books. Thus we strongly prefer softcover books.

Donated books should be:

  • Good-to-excellent condition: intact covers, pages, bindings; minimal markings
  • Current: Educational, computer, law, reference, vocational and text books should be not more than 5 years old.

Books we need most

  • PAPERBACK dictionaries, thesauri
  • Law books: Black’s Law Dictionary, current PA law, current Federal law
  • How to draw: general/basics, people, animals (drawing/art magazines welcome too)
  • How to draw cartoons and comics
  • Basic math and reading
  • GED and ESL study guides, text books
  • High school textbooks (all subjects)
  • Vocational books: electrical, plumbing, construction, etc.
  • How to start a business (commercial, small, nonprofit)
  • Urban fiction
  • Car, motorcycle: general, maintenance
  • Popular comics: Superman, Batman, etc.
  • Puzzles, Sudoku, word games, cross words
  • Drug and alcohol addiction, recovery
  • College textbooks (intro level)
  • Spirituality, yoga and meditation
  • Parenting skills, relationships

Books we don’t need

  • Hardcover fiction
  • Very old books
  • Children’s books
  • Outdated computer, reference, law or text books
  • Books in physically poor condition (moldy, water damage, torn pages/covers, lots of writing/highlighting

Groups: more info on collecting and delivering books

  • If you’re a teacher or administrator and want to offer textbooks, please email us. If the books are suitable, it may be possible for us to pick them up.
  • Consider doing a book drive! Post our most needed books flyer by the box(es).

If you are a member or leader of a religious or community group, set up a short- or long-term collection box and encourage your members to donate!

If you sell new books and have advance copies you’d like to donate, we’d be happy to accept them. If you’re a used bookstore, there are several ways we can help each other:

  • Redirect books you don’t need to us. Books customers bring in that you can’t sell may be of great value to us. Please send them our way!
  • Give them our most needed books flyer.
  • Set up a collection box and hang the flyer by it.
  • Enrich your collection. We sometimes get wonderful books on topics that prisoners rarely request. Make an appointment to look through our collection for books that would be useful in your store, and we can trade you for books that we need.

We’re happy to receive shipments of donated books from publishers or authors. However, before accepting multiple copies of a single title, we like to review it. Please send a review copy to Books Through Bars, 4722 Baltimore Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19143.