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.

Book Donation Guidelines

Before donating books: contact us at or 215-727-8170 prior to donating.

Our needs are always changing and our storage space is limited. Contacting us first allows us to ensure that your donation fits our current needs and to arrange a convenient donation time. All donations should be in good condition and current (5 years old or less; especially important for textbooks/educational materials).

Once we confirm with you about your donation, books can be dropped off Tuesday evenings 7:30-9:30pm and the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month 11am – 2pm at 4722 Baltimore Ave, Philadelphia. We may be able to arrange an alternate drop-off time if neither of those times works for you.

For all categories, paperback books are greatly preferred (many prisons don’t accept hardback).

Books We Always Need:


Manga/anime/graphic novels

Puzzles, sudoku, crosswords

How-to art (how to draw, paint)

Tattoo art


Medical/pharmaceutical dictionary

True crime

Roleplaying games

Occult, Wicca, astrology


Real estate and house flipping


How-to auto/mechanic manuals



Books We Don’t Need:

Hardcover fiction

Out-of-date texts or reference books

Any books that are very old or in poor condition

Hold a Dictionary Drive

Soft cover dictionaries are our #1 request and we send them out as quick as we can get them!

General book drives/donations can also be great but too often we get too many outdated, hardcover books that we can’t use.  We then have to sort them for hours and they take up valuable space in our limited storage.  Please help us avoid this! If you’re interested in holding a general book drive please e-mail first for rules and limitations.

We’d love your help and we want to ensure your hard work is appreciated.

Be aware: we may not be able to accept your book drive donation if we are not notified prior to holding your book drive.

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.

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!
  • 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.