Next time you curl up on the sofa with a good book, spare a thought for the hundreds of millions of people around the world who can’t read a single word. US-based company, Better World Books, is breaking new ground in online book selling and at the same time halting the tide of illiteracy.
This year’s International Literacy Day focused on the critical role that literacy plays in empowering women. According to UNESCO, women make up over two thirds of the nearly 800 million adults who are illiterate around the world. It seems like an impossible goal to even start to combat this, but Better World Books has found a way to contribute to the mission. By collecting and selling books online, they are in a unique position to also help fund literacy initiatives worldwide.
"Better World Books is part of a vibrant and growing community that wants to ensure its buying activity has a positive social impact," explains David Murphy, Better World Books CEO, "The community's purchases have raised over $8.5 million for global literacy and local libraries - it is actually raising $5 per minute right now - and that is having a real, positive impact around the world."
From Small Acorns
Following a hunch, one of the founders of Better World Books put his roommate's old text books for sale on the Internet. Business boomed and, encouraged by this success, three friends set up a company with a built-in social benefit. Through selling used books, they found they could generate revenue to fund literacy projects and also earn enough profits to support and grow the company.
One of the founders then stumbled on a massive untapped market for used books – libraries. Every year thousands of libraries have to make way for new editions. Millions of excess books were literally wasting away in storage or thrown in the garbage. Through partnering with libraries across America, the company was able to reduce the impacts on the environment by recycling books as well as raise money for literacy programs around the world.
From their small beginnings, Better World Books has now raised millions of dollars for literacy, saved millions of books from landfills through recycling and provided many books for millions of readers around the world.
Measuring Profit Threefold
Triple bottom line reporting is becoming increasingly important in today’s business world. There are examples of organizations that truly understand what being a triple bottom line company means and Better World Books is one of them. They understand that financial profits are not the only way to measure business success, that people also matter and so does the environment. All of their books are available with free shipping to any location within the United States. If readers are concerned about an eco-footprint, it's nice to know that every order is shipped carbon neutral with offsets assumed.
Supporting Global Literacy
“Investing in women’s literacy carries very high returns,” believes Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, “it improves livelihoods, leads to better child and maternal health, and favors girls’ access to education.” So, by using the power of e-commerce, Better World Books has found a way to generate funding to support leading literacy initiatives around the world. Over 80 literacy partners then use these funds in a range of ways, including helping to start libraries and provide books to schools. Participants in the Reuse First Program select which of the NGOs they want to help. Partners include Books for Africa who distribute books to children in Africa, Invisible Children who assist war-affected children and The National Center for Family Literacy.
To find out more about the wonderful work that Better World Books is doing, have a look at their website at http://www.betterworldbooks.com.