Roberto Selbach

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How can I get rid of (not so) old books?

I’m not a big believer in keeping books forever, even though I do keep some. Most books, however, I just want to read and pass along.

It just so happens that I have a ton of books that I want to get rid of. I could throw them away, but it somehow feels wrong. Also, I could donate them to some school, but considering where I live now, I assume this too will bring me one hell of a bureaucratic nightmare. Also, most of the books are either in English or Portuguese, so schools would probably not use them anyway.

With very few exceptions, all the books are either mathematics, economics, programming, or scifi. I thought I’d simply take the books to the office and give them away to anyone who’d like to have them.

But then my wife gave me an idea. Instead of taking the books and giving them outright, I started sending random emails to a mailing list with geeky questions, often related to the book topic. Whoever answers correctly first, gets the book.

This worked amazingly well.

  1. It created a fun environment for all involved. People actually want to get the answers right. Others learn by, well, learning the winning answer.

  2. For books that normally no one would care about, the fact that you have to win to get it suddenly adds value. It’s no longer a book no one wants, it now is an award.

  3. All of a sudden everybody loves me 😉

Had I just announced I had a bunch of books, people would get by, pick a few they cared about and that would have been it. No fun. So every now and then I take a few books from home and then give them away to quiz winners.

It’s actually lots of fun.