6 Unconventional Ways to Use Old Textbooks

By Julia Dunn on June 13, 2017

Students are forced to buy so many textbooks throughout college — after the term ends, you don’t necessarily open them up again, but they take up space in your place!

If you’re not trying to recycle, donate, or sell your textbooks back to other students or to your university (if they have a book buyback program), you might be wondering how you can use your textbooks aside from stockpiling them on a bookshelf.

Image via Pixabay.com

You can tell yourself, “I might look at them again for another class, or read them for fun later on,” but in truth, it doesn’t always end up the case that you’ll crack them open ever again. Here are six unconventional and creative ways to repurpose your old textbooks after the term is over.

1. Make an academic collage

Textbooks sometimes contain cool graphics, charts, and photos (especially science textbooks). Get a piece of cardboard, poster board, canvas, or another flat material and collage with images and text from your old textbooks!

STEM majors: you can make a pretty cool chemistry, plant sciences, or engineering collage using the diagrams and images from your old books!

Humanities majors: you might have more text-heavy collages depending on the books you’ve used — this creates a cool literary aesthetic. Literature majors in particular, if you’re comfortable cutting up novels and you’re positive you won’t reread them, you might enjoy making a quote collage from your favorite lines!

The more academic collages you make, the more motivated you might be to study!

2. Make a nightstand out of books

If you’re looking to repurpose a stack of larger textbooks (hardcover books are most appropriate), making a nightstand out of books is a creative way to add pizzazz to your bedroom decor. It’s a more involved project, as it involves some drilling, but definitely worth the fuss.

3. Hollow books out for storage

To do this, you’ll need a book, a box cutter or Exacto knife, puzzle glue, and a paintbrush.

After gluing the book pages together, use a sharp Exacto knife to carve out the pages of your thickest textbooks and use the inside space for some secret storage space. When cutting pages out of your book, be sure not to start cutting on the first page of the book — you want it to still look like a normal book when you flip the cover.

However, you’ll want to start cutting after just a few pages, because the earlier in the book that you begin carving, the larger space you’ll have inside. Your book safe will look like a regular book from the outside, but you’ll be able to fit small knick knacks and other tiny items in the little compartment!

According to WikiHow’s step-by-step article on making book safes, “The book that makes the best hiding spot has a similar subject matter and size as the other books on the shelf. A boring title also helps deter people from picking it up.” This might help you select which textbook to use for this project.

4. Make book planter boxes

To make a planter box out of a book, you follow nearly all of the same steps you followed to make a book safe! You’ll hollow out the pages (no need to skip pages at the beginning — just begin cutting) and end up with a rectangular space in which to place soil. After cutting the center out, line the compartment with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Plant seeds or a small plant starter (available at home improvement stores and grocery markets) into your book planter box, and you’ll have a great decoration for your outside patios, tabletops, and windowsills.

For in-depth instructions on book planter boxes, click here.

When undertaking one or some of these projects, remember that you don’t have to necessarily use your textbooks just as they are — you can deck them out in paint and other items to make them more fun to look at! Don’t hesitate to bedazzle your textbooks if you so choose.

5. Use pages for wallpaper 

If you loved your textbook enough to cover your room in it, why wouldn’t you? Remove the pages of your favorite textbook (or a book that corresponded to your favorite class) and treat them like wallpaper for a section of your wall, or the entire thing.

6. Use pages to make a table runner 

One cool way to use book pages is to glue them together to make a table runner (no need to glue in a straight line — attach the pages in any direction to create a whimsical effect, as though you dropped a bunch of paper and left it the way it fell!) You can use this table runner anytime you want to impress visitors and add a literary vibe to your dinner setting.

You probably didn’t know there were so many ways to use textbooks. In fact, there are more. Grab some friends, grab some books, and enjoy re-purposing your textbooks!

By Julia Dunn

Uloop Writer
I am a graduate student in the Creative Writing MFA program at San Jose State University. I specialize in creative nonfiction writing and poetry, as well as composition studies.

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