So you find yourself virtually encased in bookshelves full of texts you'll never reread. Time to visit the used-book store and part with a few of those treasures.

Actually, I love used-book stores not just because they help me lessen the clutter of my life. Periodically I just crave a whiff of aging paper. There is something delicious about that unique scent.Before you part with any of your bookshelf contents, take one parting sniff and get on the phone. Ask a store or two what it would cost to buy the book you want to sell. Then ask if they are interested in buying your book and how much they will give you for it.

There is some art to selling your books so if you have a number of books to sell, go to the store and talk eyeball to eyeball with the nice used-book person. Find out what types of books they are seeking. If you have a library of books from an estate or a few first editions, check around before you sell your books to just anyone. It is hard for the neophyte to judge the market value of used books. To get the best price, checking around is critical.

Depending on the type of books you're selling, you may be as well off donating your books to a school or public library or to the thrift store nearest you. Get a receipt for tax purposes if you give away your books.

Some used-book stores have computerized their offerings. Others are full of paper bags, contents of which are known only to the owner. I prefer the bookstores that allow me the luxury of perusing the shelves myself, computerized or not. I like the hunt for an unexpected treasure or two. In the smaller bookstores - those more likely to be full of plain brown wrappers - you may find a better price for the book, but you have scant opportunity to roam the shelves.

When I am in a hurry or looking for one title, I always call ahead. My theory is that I can order take-out food when I know what I want. I can also ask a bookstore to hold a particular copy for me when I know it is exactly the book for me. Because used-book stores are so hit and miss, I never just stop in unless I have come for the ambiance and aroma.

Recently, I was on the prowl for two volumes to complete a set. I began the search by calling three or four bookstores. These calls are mandatory for more reasons than one. Some of the smaller shops have a one-person staff. During what we think of as regular business hours, the owner may be off to the dentist or something of the like.

I found that the two books I sought were available at three stores. Price per volume ranged from $3-$12 for books in about the same condition. Now some collectors are very fussy about the jacket, and whether a book has one of those does affect the price and value. I am not a serious collector, so I don't care to pay for that wrapping. I can usually save several dollars as a result.

I find that "good condition" is one of those phrases that does not mean the same thing to buyers and sellers. I have never had a used-book seller say other than, "The book is in good condition."

To me a book is not in good condition if it has all its pages but has been underlined within an inch of its life. If you also have definite notions about the words "good condition," ask about those particulars when you query the store.

You will thereby save yourself a trip for naught.

Call the paperback exchanges as well as the used-book stores if you want paperbacks. I don't think you should pay more than 10 cents to 75 cents a book, and I always hope to pay 10 cents. Every so often the public libraries have sales on their romances, Westerns, mysteries and odds and ends. I have bought sackfuls of this pulp fiction at 10 cents to 25 cents each.

If you are seriously connected with paperbacks, call the closest paperback exchange and see what sort of deals they offer. If you bring in bunches of books and/or buy bundles, you should get a better purchase price than the passerby who is only interested in one title.

When I take a long trip, I buy a ton of 10-cent to 25-cent books to entertain me. "Read and leave" is my approach to lessening the weight of my luggage. Rather than bread crumbs, I leave a trail of books behind me by donating whatever I just finished to a fellow traveler.

I learned this technique on a six-week trip to Egypt. A friend brought along a box of Louis L'amours, and we passed them from person to person, then gave them to English-reading bus and train passengers. Bibliophile that I am, I enjoyed the aroma as I thumbed through the book even when I didn't care for the text.