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

You must contact us at or 215-727-8170 before donating books.

Our needs are always changing and our storage space is limited. Contact us before donating in order to
ensure that your donation fits our current needs and to arrange a convenient donation time.
In your email or phone call, please specify:

  • How many books (approximately) you intend to donate
  • The condition of the books
  • The subject matter/genre of the books

Read this before donating:

  • We accept books only in new, good condition, or lightly used. (Please do not donate a book to us that you would not gift to a loved one.)
  • We do not accept hardcover books. Many prisons do not accept them and they are expensive to mail.
  • Please review the topics we are in need of (listed below). Other than the topics listed below, we will accept books on a case-by-case basis.
  • Please donate books in a box or bag that you do not need returned to you.

Books We Always Need:

Books on our Thriftbooks Wishlist


Christian/inspirational fiction

Drawing and how-to art

Fantasy (especially contemporary)

Electrical wiring



Graphic novels

How-to auto & mechanic manuals

Investing & financial literacy


Law dictionaries

LGBTQ fiction

Manga & Anime

Medical & pharmaceutical dictionaries


Paperback carpentry guides

Paperback plumbing guides

Puzzle books (unused)

Real estate & house flipping

Roleplaying games

Starting a business & small business management

Sustainability, living off-grid & farming

True crime

Urban fiction

Weightlifting & bodybuilding

Books We Don’t Need:

  • Out-of-date nonfiction books (for any computer or marketing books should be no more than 5 years old)
  • Hardcover books
  • Old magazines (except for National Geographic or similar history & science periodicals)
  • Books advocating racial animosity, sexism, homophobia, or white supremacy
  • Books with notes or underlining
  • Heavily worn books
  • Outdated books
  • Books with any mold, yellowing, or torn pages.

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General book drives/donations can also be great but too often we get too many outdated, hardcover books that we can’t use.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