Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Better World Books Does it Better

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of speaking with Erin Levin of Better World Books. I am extremely impressed with their green initiatives and business values. You might have seen me go RT-happy with them on Twitter... and it's for good reason. Did you know that they have already donated over 5 Million books and raised over $10 Million dollars for literacy and libraries, and recycled over 64 Million books? Did you know that they work with libraries to store and sell their unwanted, outdated books, rather than see them end up in landfills?

I have been a Better World Books customer for a few years now. I won't buy used books anywhere else online. Not only do they have competitively priced books, they also donate book for book - for every book you purchase, they donate a book to one of many worldwide programs, and they ship books for free worldwide! I LOVE knowing that my purchases are helping to spread literacy all over the world.

But don't take my word on it. Let's here what Erin has to say about it all:

What it’s like working for Better World Books?

 I LOVE working at Better World Books. It is a dream come true. Why is it a dream come true? I have always felt called to serve. Because of this, I went right into the Peace Corps after graduating college. Working on the ground in developing countries and in poverty at home is so important, but it's not the only answer. After working in Madagascar, I began a career in journalism at CNN. You can make a significant difference telling important stories through the media as well. But I wanted to find a job where I could help people 100% of the time while also sustaining myself. I thought there were only two options - living and working among the poor, or working for "the man." Better World Books is different. We are a Benefit Corporation. A new, sustainable, triple-bottom-line way of doing business. Businesses have a responsibility and a growing space in the social and environmental sectors. It is an honor to work at a company leading the way in this space of working for people, planet and profit together.

What can you tell us about the programs you currently have going on?

We have so many amazing programs at Better World Books. The latest and (perhaps) greatest is our Book for Book promise. For every book you purchase at www.betterworldbooks.com, we will match with a donation of a book to someone in need. We partner with Feed the Children in the U.S and Books for Africa to give away books responsibly. Feed the Children includes age-appropriate books from us in their food packages to needy families across the country. We are the number one donor to Books for Africa and together give the most college textbooks to the Continent.

Literacy is vital to us at Better World Books. In addition to giving a book away for each purchase, a percentage of revenue of every sale is also donated to these literacy non-profits. To date, we have raised over $10 million for our literacy and library partners and given away over 5 million books. We also partner with college campuses to run book drives and help support the organizations they are passionate about as well. The majority of our funding goes to Invisible Children, Room to Read, Books for Africa, Worldfund and the National Center for Family Literacy.

Finally, we are a green company. We have reused or recycled over 64 million books - that’s over 70 million pounds of books rescued from the landfill. We have also helped libraries to reclaimed more than 720,000 pounds of metal shelving. We even empower our customers to make a difference with carbon balanced shipping options. We partner with 3Degrees, a leading green power and carbon balancing firm to secure verified carbon offsets and RECs from wind farms. Specifically we are using our carbon offsets to support the Tatanka Wind Farm, the largest renewable-energy project in North and South Dakota. This landmark wind farm will generate enough clean energy to power more than 60,000 homes!

Why should TNBBC members purchase their books through your site?

We're one of the best bookstores on the web. You will find the book you're looking for on our site for the same price or better than almost anywhere else, and if you're not 100% satisfied with your experience we will do what it takes to get you there. But your purchase with us goes much farther than the book. It's a purchase with a greater purpose, supporting literacy and business responsibility.

If you're going to buy a book, why wouldn't you want to power a book donation and create funding for literacy with your purchase? You don't need to pay more or change your actions, it’s just part of how we do business. We hope you’ll be pleased and share our story with all of your book-loving friends. If that’s not enough to convert you to a Better World Books shopper, here is a little discount code:

TNBBCBWB = 10% off your first purchase with us

Who came up with that awesome letter that we get from our purchased books?

This letter is kind of like Santa. It showed up like a gift one day and we've been using it since. Maybe it did actually come from a book. Why would you question such things?

We also want to let you know that we love groups like TNBBC. You are getting a community of book lovers talking and sharing about the impact of books. We believe just one book can change a life and the more people that care about raising literacy and education the greater impact we will all make together. Thank you!

What can TNBBC do right now to help Better World Books?

Thanks for asking!

1) You can buy a pre-loved book from us as a gift to yourself while also giving the gift of reading to someone in need.

2) Please “like” us on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter and engage on our blog. For each new “like” and “follow” we will donate a book to a child in need via Feed The Children. You can make a world of difference with just one click!

3) Share our story with everyone you know. The more people who know about us, donate to us, and buy from us, the more the love of literacy will be available around the world.

Erin is an award-winning advocate journalist. Her production and outreach experience ranges from ABC and CNN to the Peace Corps and non-profits around the world. She is currently the Community and Social Media Manager at the world’s largest social impact online bookstore, Better World Books, and loves every minute of it! Erin is also in production of a documentary feature film about the African Children’s Choir. Traveling, spending time in the great outdoors and volunteering with friends all fill Erin with joy.


  1. How does one submit a novel to be included in your library?

  2. Great interview and great answers. This makes me want to go out and buy a book from Better World Books right now!

    I remember helping out my library a few years back. Instead of selling all their weeded books in a sale they were checking to see if BWB would take them. I had so much fun seeing what was going in the BWB pile! The librarians loved me 'cause I didn't want to leave. This is such a fantastic company!

  3. This sounds wonderful! I've always ordered from Amazon because it's so easy, but this does some good also besides feeding the Amazon coffer. Thank you for the suggestion!

  4. Lori -- I've used BWB several times and I absolutely love the framework behind the company! That is why I go back to them again and again...I really feel like I'm doing a little part to help out (I always choose that carbon-free shipping option.) And they have a HUGE selection plus super good prices!! And as a bit of a snobby bibliophile, I like that you can often choose from books in different conditions.

    For those of you TNBBCers who have yet to check out BWB, what are you waiting for?? Get over there, do some good while also filling your bookshelves/growing Mt. TBR, and share the love with your fellow bibliophiles!!

    (Lori -- Is the code in fact just for new users or can we "old timers" use it, too??)

  5. KT, The code is a one time 10% discount for TNBBCer's... whether it's your first purchase, or your 100th.. but you can only use it once :)

  6. they collect abandoned books from libraries and sell them at really low prices to people in need. great company.