Easy Green Choice: Better World Books “Eco-Shipping” Makes Company Price Competitive With Amazon

Recently, I posted a series of articles on green business books.  I’m an author.  I know the field reasonably well, though I’m no expert in the publishing industry.  Blogging is a terrific outlet for book sales, as I’ve found that by giving away a sample of my writing on Triple Pundit, and letting people decide if they want to read more, they can purchase my book online.  For the last two years, I’ve been merrily blogging away (both for 3p and other green business blogs–yes there are others!), leaving a link at the bottom of each post to my book’s page on BetterWorldBooks.com.  Better World Books is the clear green choice, and as a green author, I want to support them.

By not linking to my book’s Amazon page, however, I had two internal struggles.  One struggle is a reputation thing.  Middle America knows Amazon.  More on that shortly.  But the second is that my book costs more on BWB.  Or at least, I had always assumed it did.  Turns out, BWB’s “eco-shipping,” which is free and eco-friendly, makes BWB price-competitive with Amazon!  So why don’t people know that?

First, about the reputation thing.  Consumers might feel that this was a self-published book that didn’t qualify to show up on a “real” bookseller like Amazon, but instead was relegated to niche markets like BetterWorldBooks.  Those of us in the know, of course, know that BWB is every bit as real as Amazon as a bookseller.  We also know that Better World Books funds literacy projects, uses renewable energy, and has a variety of other eco-friendly, socially responsible practices that Amazon does not.

Here’s an excerpt from BWB’s website:

“All books are available with free shipping to any location within the United States (or $3.97 worldwide). And in case you’re concerned about your eco-footprint, every order is shipped carbon neutral with offsets from Carbonfund.org.”

But here’s the best part: “In addition to selling new titles, Better World Books supports book drives and collects used books and textbooks through a network of over 1,800 college campuses and partnerships with over 2,000 libraries nationwide. So far, the company has converted more than 25 million donated books into $7.3 million in funding for literacy and education. In the process, we’ve also diverted more than 13,000 tons of books from landfills.

Because we believe that most every book has lasting value and the potential to help change the world, we see our job as helping to find new homes for unwanted books. Thus far, we’ve donated 1.5 million books to partner programs around the world. Our five primary literacy partners are Books for Africa, Room to Read, Worldfund, the National Center for Family Literacy, and Invisible Children. Good company, no doubt.”

So it’s a clear choice.  BWB is the kind of company I love to support.

The second problem I had–and this is a biggie–is that my book costs more on BetterWorldBooks.com than it does on Amazon.  Below is a screen shot from my Amazon page (the one pictured above is from my BWB page).  Notice the price differential.

So, aren’t I just making my readers pay more for my book?  Amazingly, no.  This is a fundamental “hidden cost” situation.  If you click through and try to purchase my book on Amazon, by the time you get to checkout, you’ve added $3.97 for shipping in the U.S.  But BetterWorldBooks offers FREE “Eco-shipping” (see the first line in their excerpt above).  Their eco-shipping policies find the best, most energy efficient ways to get the book to you.  It may take a little longer (that’s the only catch), but heck, it’s free!  So once you add the price of shipping to Amazon’s first landing page for my book, the price of a used copy of my book on Amazon or BWB is EXACTLY THE SAME.

If I ran Better World Books, I would certainly fix that, because guess what happens when someone searches for my book (or any book) on Google?  These two prices show up.  Amazon is $4 less….until they add shipping, but they don’t see that until they get that far into the process, and by then, they just go ahead and assume that BWB would also add $4 for shipping, and they purchase the book on Amazon.

*That part at the bottom about it being eligible for free super saver shipping?  Yeah, it doesn’t work unless you buy $25 worth of stuff from the same vendor. The vendors of used copies of my book range from second hand bookstores to Joe Schmoe in Weedmont, IL, who bought my book, used it and is now selling it because he got what he wanted out of it.  So finding something else that person sells that you’d actually want?  It’s not worth the time or the extra $20 to get the free shipping, SINCE BETTER WORLD BOOKS OFFERS IT FOR FREE!

Scott Cooney is the founder of Green Business Village, a sustainable strategy consulting firm focused on providing low-cost strategy and management tools to small, green businesses that are usually only available to big businesses with big budgets to hire consulting firms.  He is also author of Build a Green Small Business:  Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill).

Scott Cooney, Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched GreenBusinessOwner.com, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

5 responses

  1. Thank you, Scott. I was not aware of this company and find their approach more compatible with my beliefs than Amazon, etc. I'll have my webmaster add their link to the buy pages for my eighth book, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet (co-authored with Jay Conrad Levinson) <http://www.guerrillamarketinggoesgreen.com>

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