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

As of September 2018, due to the PA DOC’S new punitive mail restrictions, we are temporarily only accepting donations of books in very good condition in the categories listed below. Because we are currently not able to send to any PA state prisons, where we previously sent most of our book packages, the donated books will not be moving at regular speed. We have limited storage space and appreciate your cooperation in donating only the materials we most need.

  • Vocational
  • Legal dictionaries and other legal texts
  • How to start a business books
  • Real estate
  • Dictionaries
  • Urban fiction
  • LGBTQI fiction and non-fiction
  • Occult non-fiction, UFOs, unexplained phenomena
  • How-to art books
  • True crime
  • Real estate
  • Music (popular and hip hop)
  • Puzzles and craft books (Origami, etc.)
  • Mythology
  • Exercise and working out
  • Current computer programming (C++)
  • Islam
  • African-American studies and radical history
  • Books from our Amazon Wishlist

We are asking all interested in donating books to contact us at or 215-727-8170 prior to donating.

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General book drives/donations can also be great but too often we get too many outdated, hardcover books that we can’t use.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.