The Cure for Reader's Digest Condensed Books

Librarians joke that Reader's Digest Condensed Books are the zucchini of the library world — like a bagful of squash deposited on your doorstop by a neighbor, these abridged anthologies get donated by the bagful at libraries.  Sadly, the fate of most of these books is doomed — most libraries don't add them to their collections and find them well-nigh unsellable at their book sales. But now, a genius idea! The Friends of the Willow Glen Branch of the San Jose (CA) Public Library deconstruct, recycle, and  "upcycle" donated copies of Reader's Digest Condensed Books into chic handbags and e-book reader covers. Since April 2011 they've sold 80 purses for $25 each, and donated the proceeds to the library. They also make padded covers for e-book readers that are priced at $20.

They work from a 28-item checklist for each purse. It covers everything from removing the pages from the book to drilling holes for grommets for the handles to creating a matching decorative price tag. Most tags are made from illustrations cut from the removed pages.

It's a great fundraising idea, and a nice  example of collaboration between a library Friends group and a thrift store — both groups reap the rewards:

The colors of the cover prints are matched with fabric donated by friends, relatives and most recently by the Thrift Box on Lincoln Avenue. "We're both nonprofits," says Linda Petersen. "We give them things we wouldn't sell, like magazines and VHS tapes." In turn, the Thrift Box passes on broken pieces of costume jewelry and beads, which the women turn into clasps and handles.

"It feels great not to throw books away," volunteer Debbie Erwin says. References: