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Better World Books: Cheap Books, Helping Charities

Updated on June 24, 2014

Secondhand Books With A Difference

Better World Books is an American company with a simple business model - acquire secondhand books and sell them cheap. Big deal, you might think -- that's what businesses do and we've all seen book outlet stores with remaindered copies of politicians' autobiographies.

Well, Better World is different. They actively seek out books from all sorts of sources, including finding good books that are heading for the pulp mills. They sell them on or give them to charitable projects all over the world. They also fund charitable programs from profits.

Note: images compiled with permission from BWB website,


I have no personal or financial stake in BetterWorld Books other than as a satisfied customer.

A Clever Idea Grown Large

How BWB started

Once upon a time a couple of college students wanted to raise a bit of cash (probably for beer but we'll let that pass). They put no-longer-needed text books up for sale on the Web and made a better price than local bookshops would offer. Legend has it that they then grabbed their roommates' books and flogged those as well. Everything sold like hotcakes. This was the early days of the Internet, so such ideas hadn't hit the mainstream yet - the ease and success of the operation were a pleasant surprise.

Then followed a book drive for charity - another great success. The proverbial lightbulb flashed over their heads, they called in a friend (an investment banker but we'll let that pass as well) and a business was born: As their website says, they " envisioned a different kind of company with a built-in social benefit. By generating revenue to fund literacy, they would also earn profits to support and grow the company. And in funding literacy, they would help give struggling people the world over the skills and self-esteem necessary to thrive and succeed. "

More than an ordinary company though.


Charitable Works

Who is being helped?

Organisations, groups, charities in many countries have benefited from Better World's actions, Whether it be via funding or books, or both, lives have been improved, literacy standards raised.

Invisible Children

Invisible Children started to help the children forced into militias in Uganda. I find it impossible to imagine a British kid of eleven shooting people with an AK47 -- for many it was the only life they knew.

From the Better World Books website:

Invisible Children improves the quality of life for war-affected children by providing access to quality education, enhanced learning environments and innovative economic opportunities for the community. Through education and innovative economic opportunities, they partner with affected communities and strive to improve the quality of life for individuals living in conflict and post conflict regions.


Home And Away

As you can see from the logos, a wide range of people benefit. They range from African children to prisoners in the USA.

prison book project better world books
prison book project better world books

Prison Book Project

Prison Book Project : In their own words are:

... a secular, volunteer group that distributes books free-of-charge to prisoners in New England and Texas.

We are dedicated to offering men and women behind bars the opportunity for self-empowerment, education, and entertainment that reading provides."

Now online - UK store

Better World Books have recently opened a UK version of their store -- visit UK Better World Books

If you're in the USA or elsewhere, try US/World Better World Books website Post and packing rates worldwide are impressively reasonable.


Is it just text books then? Eeugh

No, of course it isn't :)

BWB do indeed still sell textbooks -- thankfully, as anyone who's looked depairingly at a Univerity reading list will attest -- but they stock and sell just about anything that's printed. New novels, old novels, prizewinning authors -- and all at a fraction of new price. Paperbacks and hardbacks included.

One important point: some people (me included) like a nice, fresh-feeling book -- BWB give accurate descriptions of the condition of everything they sell. And if you've ever bought from a dodgy eBay seller then you'll know how important that is!


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