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I have about 1000 or so programming books, but a good selection are on languages/frameworks that are dated, like Django 1.1, Symfony 1.3, or HTML 4 and CSS 2. I just got them all back from storage and was sorting through what ones are of no use to me.

So, I was wondering. Dated programming books are unlikey to be of any value to go through the hassle of selling them. Ideally I'd like to give them away but I can't find anywhere online to distribute them.

Any ideas on what to do with them?

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closed as off-topic by Jim G., MichaelT, Michael Kohne, gnat, Corbin March Aug 5 '13 at 3:39

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IMHO it's best not to get books on such ephemeral topics. As a corollary, it's not particularly good to give them away either - I doubt you'd really be doing anybody a favor. So I guess you'll have to live with the fact that you've made a questionable purchase decision and learn for the future. After all, paper is recyclable ;) –  back2dos Aug 4 '13 at 20:01
@back2dos this is true. It pains me to see so much money on books go to waste. Never buying such books again that's for sure. –  LOLKAT Aug 4 '13 at 20:03
Maybe the library will have them. Maybe the books will spark interest and someone will become interested in programming through them. –  LOLKAT Aug 4 '13 at 20:06
This question appears to be off-topic because it isn't programming-related. –  Jim G. Aug 4 '13 at 22:15

5 Answers 5

I would suggest donating them to a school or another country where resources like these are like gold. Even if they are outdated they still have good information in them that is applicable in todays world.

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Excellent idea. I wouldn't know where to find such a school/charity that deals with this in another country, otherwise I think I'd opt to do just that. –  LOLKAT Aug 4 '13 at 20:46
I think even in less-favoured countries, where programming would supposedly be learned in machines with internet, the cost of learning old knowledge from old paper is larger than looking for new information online, even if it doesn't come from a book. IMO. –  heltonbiker Aug 4 '13 at 23:54
Programming isn't always learned on machines with an internet connection. One summer I worked in a computer lab in Mexico where the nearest internet access was an hour away. –  Joe Aug 5 '13 at 0:48
  1. What do to with programming books YOU don't have a use for anymore

    Give them away or sell them. Your local library, used-book shop, or equivalent should help handle the particulars.

  2. What do to with programming books NO ONE has a use for anymore

    Recycle them. Or, if your local recycler just won't take them for some reason, consider using them as firewood or compost.

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Origami is the perfect exemple of a resource-hungry activity that depends on actual paper. (is there such a thing as an "origami school"?) –  heltonbiker Aug 4 '13 at 23:56
@heltonbiker My gradeschool (mid 1990s) had arts-and-crafts after school ended for the kids whose parents wouldn't be home yet. Dunno if it's still a thing. –  Izkata Aug 5 '13 at 2:05
I don't think they're good for compost; Programming books tend to use glossy paper, which, IIRC, I isn't biodegradable. –  aviv Aug 5 '13 at 2:25
@aviv: now I want to get a semi-glossy book, bury it with some trash, and see if the thing decomposes or not. –  DougM Aug 5 '13 at 12:33
Also, if the ink itself contain any toxic substance (heavy metals come to mind), even if the paper decomposes, it would make for a very bad compost... Hard to know, I think! –  heltonbiker Aug 5 '13 at 15:53

Well I guess there only value now is as historical record. So I can only think of three thing to do with them (except for throwing them away). Donate them to a library. Donate them to a archive/historical research (the books you list are maybe still to young for this option). Or keep them yourself somewhere as a memory of what you did during your life.

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I'm using four of them as monitor stands. Most of the rest just gather dust.

Echoing what the other commenters wrote, it's not a good idea to buy programming books on paper anymore. O'Reilly's Safari service lets you borrow them, in electronic form, for an annual fee, and you can also download PDFs to keep long-term.

Many are also available in Kindle form, which is great for things you'll use heavily for a few years and then discard.

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Depends on the book. I would think that SICP hasn't lost any value in almost 30 years. If you want to get rid of it, you can give it to somebody and actually help them. The same cannot be said for the "Turbo Pascal 5.0 Reference" I proudly call my own :D –  back2dos Aug 4 '13 at 20:18
I purchased a Kindle Fire solely for this purpose. I'm still getting used to reading programming books on the Kindle though. –  LOLKAT Aug 4 '13 at 20:19
"it's not a good idea to buy programming books on paper anymore". I agree that most of them will become dated, but learning reading on paper is not efficient than on screen so I don't agree with the conclusion. Perhaps recycling is not a bad choice after all. I don't know about eReaders though... –  Jubbat Aug 4 '13 at 21:58
All of the ereader programming books I've read so far are fine until there is code involved. My kindle never formats this stuff correctly. –  Rig Aug 4 '13 at 23:19

In the US, we have used book stores that will gladly take them, one chain in Texas is named 'Half Priced Books'. Is there a Goodwill or equivalent in the UK? They take them as well. There is some value in keeping ancient development platform information around, since some chunk of legacy code will pop up from the middle of nowhere. Often such maintenance work is done in India, Pakistan, the Philippines, or South Africa.

If anyone reading this is in an area of the world where such books might be useful, please comment.

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