Books for Barter?

A question came through in one of my Yahoo Groups today concerning storing books for future use in barter transactions. While on the surface it doesn’t sound like a bad idea, I do have some thoughts about it.

First, let’s say there was some sort of major regional or even national catastrophe. One large enough that would result in folks relying on barter to get what they need. One of the key components of whether an item would be useful as barter is the expected rarity of the item. For example, we would expect food to be high on the value list, right? Fuel would probably be another one.

Books though, I have to wonder how scarce they’d be. I mean, most homes have at least a couple bookcases full of paperbacks and such, right? Libraries would be another source for finding reading material. Also, statistics have shown for years that less and less people read for entertainment. Sure, ebooks are obviously the new big thing and some of the people who devour them now might turn back to physical books when their reader dies.

There is this too — most of the avid readers I know already have a TON of books in their homes. They aren’t necessarily stored for barter purposes but just because many readers don’t like to get rid of their books. Heck, I have books in literally every single room of my home.

Another consideration is the type of book being stored. I would guess that practical information, like books on homesteading skills and wilderness survival, would fetch a higher “price” than a 15 year old Grisham novel.

I’m not saying that considering books for barter use is a bad idea. But I’d think hard about storing several cases of them in place of storing things like salt, matches, sewing needles and more practical things.

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Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

3 thoughts on “Books for Barter?”

  1. Agreed. I think people would tend to seek other folks who have prevalent survival know-how. Books could easily be bartered with, but I think it will be way down on the totem pole. "Hey, I'll give you these twinkies for one of them purty word things."

  2. Escape books are a good idea as people will probably revert back to reading for escape and entertainment. But a well stocked supply of liquor would be a much better bet in a "post-collapse" barter situation.

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