Sell Books

Tips on selling: when, how, and what we buy!

Books stacked on tableDo you have books to sell? Bring them in 3pm-7pm, Friday or Saturday. No appointment is necessary on those nights. If you're on a tight schedule or have many boxes, calling ahead helps.

We'll go through the books while you wait, select the ones we'd like to purchase, and make an offer promptly.

If you are selling a collection or are not able to bring your books in to the shop, you may call to set up an appointment. Wednesdays and Thursdays are the usual appointment days, though we do sometimes visit collections on other days; please help us save those days for people with mobility concerns and/or with large (>10 shelves) collections.

We stock a wide variety of books, but we do not purchase:

  • Former library books
  • Condensed or abridged books
  • Encyclopedias or magazines
  • Books with water damage, mold, broken binding, highlighting, or torn or missing covers or pages.

Thank you for sorting your books in advance.

For the health and safety of our staff, we will not look at any books that smell of mildew or mold. We also do not look at books with visible animal damage or excretions. These are health hazards and should be disposed of accordingly. In rare cases, it may be worthwhile to have a professional salvage the book; we can offer advice, but we do not presently offer the service.

We do not carry new books. If you are an author or publisher looking to place your books with an independent bookshop in Iowa City, please contact Prairie Lights or Iowa Book and Supply, both of whom carry new books and so can sell your books on terms profitable to both of you. Congratulations on your publication!

Our cash offer will be based on condition, demand, and what we can reasonably expect to charge on resale. Thus, we pay more for books in better condition, books of scholarly interest, and books of gift quality. You may contact us to find out if some titles are ones we would like to see or if a subject is one we are buying, and you may send us pictures of books you want to sell, but we cannot make offers for books we have not seen in person. You are welcome to bring a sample from your collection to get an idea of what we buy and pay. You can also check below for categories of books that interest us particularly and categories that we are not buying.

We do not currently visit collections outside the greater Iowa City area except in the case of specialized collections in subject areas of particular interest. Please call for more information.

What We Want Most Right Now

Children's: Gift-quality picture books, books based on myths and folklore, and memorable, well-written youth/teen fiction.
Iowa: Natural history; books by or about the Engles, the Shambaughs, or Louise Noun; books about Stone City and its art colony; early maps and engravings depicting Iowa; books about Sioux, Sac and Fox, and earlier inhabitants of this region.
Scholarly interest: currently buying for all sections, but especially mythology and folklore, Classical studies, philosophy, religion/law/medicine from antiquity through the Renaissance, geology and astronomy, theological classics, Irish history, agriculture, geography, and works from various disciplines on brain/mind/consciousness.

We are always interested in well-written books, whether fiction or nonfiction. Some favorite subjects of ours are mythology and folklore, essays about nature, music history, poetry, plays, geography, labor history, neurology and consciousness, Classical studies, theology, speculative fiction, graphic novels, fine-press work, and books about the art of books from writing to printing. We are usually interested in award-winning and classic books through all subject areas, contingent on condition.

We do not buy encyclopedias, reference sets, textbooks, romance novels, westerns, manga series, self help, home improvement, popular inspiration, test prep books, dated travel guides, magazines, newspapers, bestsellers in hardcover (with exceptions for high-quality writing), books published by magazine companies (Reader's Digest, Time-Life, Better Homes & Gardens), audio books, movies, CDs, vinyl records, cassette tapes, used board/card games or toys, or antique furnishings or household goods. Creases, stains, unpleasant non-book odors, tanned pages, price stickers, and other damage factors will count against our offer for the books that we are interested in buying.

We do buy old books, but we are extremely selective about condition and subject matter. Please note that "old" here means books printed before 1915 ("antiquarian" means before 1865); the condition must be clean, with all pages intact; no unreasonable odor or broken or missing covers. If there are insects, mouse droppings, mold, etc., in the box, we will not look at the books. We are interested in a range of subjects, especially science, history, Latin, Greek, early children's books, and other illustrated books, but please bear in mind that there are subjects and books that we don't buy because they are not about subjects we carry, not uncommon, and/or later reprint editions made with materials that do not age well.

Book Credit

If you are bringing in books for sale or trade, we can offer you book credit as payment. Credit can be applied toward the purchase of any books in the store. (Credit cannot be applied toward toys or greeting cards.) Credit need not be spent immediately, and setting up an account is quick and easy. (We do not share account information with anyone except the account owner(s), so it's also hassle-free.) You can designate other people (partners, family members, friends) to share your account. Credit can also be converted to gift certificates, but cannot be converted to cash.

Working with our community

Our bookshop neighbors

We're good friends with the other independent bookstores in Iowa City, and we're pleased to give you directions to their fine establishments.

Our ongoing benefit sale

Iowa City's Free Medical Clinic offers expert, non-judgmental, free medical care to those in need in our community. Every penny you spend to buy books from our Benefit Sale shelves - $1.00 for hardcovers, 50 cents for paperbacks - goes directly to this outstanding nonprofit group. We don't believe in that vague "proceeds of" stuff. (As space permits, we are happy to accept donations of books in good condition for this cause.)

Local groups we support

We believe that locally-owned businesses are best able to provide goods and services to match their communities' needs, so we are proud to be part of Iowa City's Shop Locally campaign.


Recycling actively is one of the ways that we work to help our environment. Our books are used, carefully cleaned and repaired for your reuse, and we make every effort to keep our sourcing, operations, and disposal as green as possible. We can also help you to find the best way to dispose responsibly of your used bookshelves, magazines, papers, or damaged books. Ask us for details.

Our community message boards

In the foyer and in the hall are local postings about events, groups, pets, jobs, housing, and more. Also, stop here to pick up your copy of the free magazines Little Village, Radish, and Iowa Source, all excellent publications about Iowa food, arts, and events.