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Share Your Books

Are you amassing too many fines at the library? Here's some advice on how to pick up some affordable reads -- while clearing the old ones off your shelves.

Get rid of the old and bring in the new by organizing a book swap at your home, work, or community group. By trading literature, you and your fellow bookworms can recommend authors to each other and pass around the latest novel du jour without having to spend a dime. Who knows? Your worn copy of Crime and Punishment -- complete with margin notes and doodles -- might be just the book a friend is looking to read on her upcoming business trip to Russia.

If your piles of books threaten to topple over, you can always donate them and get a tax write-off. Goodwill and similar charities accept used books, and local libraries sell them to raise money. The Brother's Brother Foundation Educational Program takes in children's books and textbooks on all topics (provided they're less than 10 years old and in excellent condition) and distributes them to schools and people in need in 28 countries.

Maybe the most free-spirited approach is the "BookCrossing" movement. This organization, whose goal is to "make the whole world a library," encourages people to leave the books they love in public places (a train station, a park bench) for others to read and enjoy. You can track your book's whereabouts, along with other people's responses to it, via an ID number assigned to each book when you register it online at bookcrossing.com.

Finally, don't underestimate the used bookstore. These small, dimly-lit reading havens face tough competition from large bookstore chains and online outlets. They reply on your support and will often let you exchange books, or even give you cash for your old reads. Just try doing that at the mall.

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