Free Book Exchange Programs

Despite the availability of digital offers, many people still prefer to read actual printed books. But in most cases, once we have read a book, it ends up on a shelf where it takes up space and we rarely look at it again, while we go to the bookstore to buy a new book. Especially for voracious readers, this is (a) costly and (b) requires a lot of shelf space. One solution to this problem is joining a public library to get new reading material. Another solution that is available in Basel is the “Bücher-Brocky” at Güterstrasse 137, 4053 Basel (behind SBB train station in Gundeli), where you can get second-hand books at very cheap prices. They have a huge selection of second-hand books, including many in English.

But there is also a third option—free public book exchange programs. Basel is home to more than a dozen public bookshelves where anyone can bring, take, or exchange books free of charge. These book exchanges are based on an honor system—you bring approximately the same number of books as you are taking out, so that there is always a steady supply of books for interested readers. These book exchanges are found indoors and outdoors, are often accessible 24/7, and come in many different forms—from shelves and cabinets to little huts and repurposed old phone booths. The books generally include fiction, non-fiction, travel, as well as children’s books. While they are primarily in German, you can often find books in other languages, including English. You don’t need to become a member; participation is completely anonymous. There are two such systems in Basel.

Offener Bücherschrank (Open Bookcase)

The Offener Bücherschrank is a Switzerland-wide program of weatherproof, outdoor public bookcases or cabinets. There are currently nine of these bookcases in Basel, including at the Basel SBB, in Birsfelden, Bachletten, Gundeldingen, Hirzbrunnen, St. Johann, and Wettstein, as well as two in Riehen. For a complete list of locations, visit

Öffentliche Bücherregale (Public Bookshelves)

This social and environmentally-friendly offer is currently available at eight indoor locations in Basel, including Unternehmen Mitte, Café Huguenin, Jugendherberge St. Alban, Café del Mundo, Zum Isaak, Jukibu, Aktienmühle, and Union. http://öffentliche-bü