Better World Books: A Virtuous Online Bookseller

My love of books coupled with my passion for social justice led me to start purchasing books from Better World Books, a triple-bottom-line company that sells new and used books, and donates a percentage from every sale to literacy projects around the world. “We believe that education and access to books are basic human rights. That’s why books sold on help fund high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world,” the company’s website states.
Started by University of Notre Dame college students in 2002 who sold textbooks online, Better World Books now has over two million new and used book titles. For the frugal social conscious book lover, Better World Books provides something Amazon does not: free shipping in the U.S., and $2.97 internationally.

The online book company collects used books and supports book drives by partnering with almost 1,000 libraries in the U.S. Better World Books boasts that so far it has raised $4.5 million for literacy and education projects, and saved over 6,000 tons of books from ending up in landfills. Not bad at all for a couple of college kids who wanted to make a few extra dollars.
Better Book World’s four main literacy partners are Books for Africa, Room to Read, Worldfund, and the National Center for Family Literacy. The company holds book drives and gives the funds to its literacy partners.
“Literacy is the big equalizer. It’s proven in Africa that a woman who is literate is many times more likely to not contract AIDS. It’s pretty much a proven fact that if you get people literate, get people educated, you can make a difference in their lives,” said David Murphy, CEO of Better World Books.
“We appeal to people who want to vote with their dollars. We’re very much positioned for buyers with a conscience who are, basically, purchasing with their values. I’d like to go to a place and buy a book and know a certain percentage is going back to something I support.”
Investment from Good Capital, LLC
In April Better World Books announced that Good Capital, LLC the San Francisco-based investment manager of the Social Enterprise Expansion Fund, will invest up to $2.5 million in growth capital. Good Capitol, according to a press release, “accelerates the flow of capital to innovative social ventures to create sustainable solutions to global challenges. Its Social Enterprise Expansion Fund is a private equity fund that provides growth capital to businesses that deploy market-based solutions focused on poverty alleviation, healthcare, and education.”
“Better World Books is a great fit for Good Capital’s Social Enterprise Expansion Fund,” said Kevin Jones, Principal and Co-founder of Good Capital. “It’s a rapidly growing, expansion-stage social enterprise that is leveraging a market-based approach, by buying and selling new and used books to improve global literacy. They are passionate and smart, and we look forward to helping them achieve their financial goals and execute on their social mission.”
“This investment from Good Capital and other private investors will have a huge impact on our ability to promote and support literacy on a much bigger scale around the world,” said Murphy. “Better World Books was founded on a simple belief that businesses can do good and do well at the same time. We are thrilled that Good Capital and our other partners have embraced Better World Books’ unique model with growth capital that protects our core values while providing the acceleration to help us expand our business.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

4 responses

  1. I ordered a book for a class from this service this past fall, before my semester started. It didn’t arrive until after I had taken the final in February (in fact, it arrived next to my spring semester books from Amazon). I’m never going near ‘BetterWorld’ again (you shouldn’t either).
    It doesn’t matter how good the concept is if the implementation sucks.

  2. Horrible company, will never buy from them again. I live in Mishawaka Indiana(the same as this company) and they suck in the service and shipping area(pretty sad considering I live right next to them).

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