15 Creative Ways to Use Old Textbooks

Boundless students know what it’s like to break free from textbooks. They leave the weight and annoyance of those bound pages sitting at home and study from their laptop, tablet, or smartphones instead. But what do they do with all their old textbooks?

Only Have a Few Books to Use?

Lots of students are used to a routine of selling textbooks back to bookstores or renting them from other services, so they don’t accumulate too many books. Perhaps they have an occasional book that isn’t worth selling back, so it takes up room on their bookshelf instead. Grab those few books and turn them into something you can actually enjoy.

1. Clock
Cramming for an exam while studying with a textbook probably made you feel pressed for time. Take that dreaded book and turn it into a clock to embrace the irony.

book clock
Above: We made our own book clock for Boundless!

2. Footrest
Give your feet a much-needed break when you’re chilling in your dorm. You can customize the height by adding or subtracting textbooks from the stack.

3. Step Stool
Use old hardcover textbooks as a stepping stool to reach the high shelves that display late night snacks.

4. Business Card Holder
This project is creative and practical for college students about to embark on their job search. Open a book, lay it flat, and start folding the pages in half to get a unique card holder.

5. Picture Frame
Did you invest in an ancient textbook for class—you know, the kind that looks like it’s been taken from a scene of Downton Abbey? Use that to build a picture frame that will easily rival your roomie’s standard black and glass frames.

6. Pencil holder
Rip the pages out of a textbook you know you’ll never touch again for the outside of a new pencil holder. You can decorate the outside of metal cups with the pages, or stack the cups inside the paper like this.

7. Plant holder
Carve out the middle of a textbook to create a holder for a very well-read plant. Watch a tutorial.

8. Bookshelf
Give bare walls some flair by creating book shelves, literally. Fasten one or more books to the wall with brackets and decorate the shelves however you want.

9. Safe
Sacrifice (and recycle!) the insides of an old textbook to create a safe for your valuables. Make sure you pick a thick book that can hold everything you want to store.

book safe
Above: A book safe by Flickr user Randy Cox

Have a Lot of Books Leftover?

While some students are great at cutting back on bookshelf clutter, others collect books like a squirrel hoards nuts. Use those old books to decorate your apartment or dorm with fun furniture and DIY artwork.

10. Table Legs
Gather all your hardcover books to make custom-height table legs for a dinner or coffee table. You can paint the books so they stay in the same color family or keep them as is for a rustic library look.

11. Bookcase
Some people—as unbelievable as this sounds—still have encyclopedias collecting dust somewhere. After you dust them off, arrange and attach them strategically to create a bookcase.

12. Pet House
Have a cat or dog running around your apartment? Build them a little house where they can relax after a tough day of playing and eating.

book doghouse

13. Lamp
Stack a group of coordinating books together and drill a hole through the center to create a custom table lamp. Get details here.

14. Wall Art
Use the covers or pages of your old textbooks to create some eye-catching art. Paint groups of books solid colors and hang them on the wall in a fun pattern. Glue book pages on a custom piece of plywood and paint your favorite quote overtop the book text. Use the covers of your textbooks as pieces of a nifty headboard.

15. Breakfast Bar
Don’t just stop at table legs—make an entire counter! Stack as many old textbooks together as you can find and place a slab of wood or glass on the top to create a fun bar or counter for your apartment. Warning: This requires a lot of old textbooks, so pull your roommates into the project!

book counter
Above: A book counter via The Design Files

Bonus: If you’re a total textbook collector, you could make an igloo to shield yourself from the snow!

book igloo
Above: Book igloo photo via Miler Lagos

Of course, these are just ideas of reusing textbooks in creative ways, but you can always give them to libraries, recycle them, or donate them to various charities.


Want to make sure extra room on your shelf? Use Boundless online textbooks instead!