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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!

What do you think of BWB?

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    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is JUST what I need for all those books I don't have time to read. I have bookmarked the UK site for later :) Thanks Paul.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 4 years ago from Scotland

      Fantastic, I buy all my books from second hand stores like Cancer Research or Barnardos, I then fill a bag and return them. I had never heard of Better World Books, SO thanks for the link :)

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 5 years ago from Washington KS

      Great idea. I donate all the books I review to area libraries.

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 5 years ago

      I get used books from them all the time on Amazon. Thanks for telling their story.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      nothing wrong with cheap books, many gems to find within the cheap sale.

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 6 years ago

      FIrst I've heard of this organization, Better World Books. Very interesting approach to deflect waste, aid reading and help various charities all in one organization.

    • HeartBroken62 profile image

      HeartBroken62 6 years ago

      I love this organization! I always check on books I want here first to see if they might have it and they usually do. Super quick on shipping and great customer service. Thanks for doing another lens on some really useful seem to really have it going on!

    • profile image

      Ruthi 6 years ago

      News to me, so thanks for the info on BetterWorldBooks!

    • profile image

      yourgoldenfuture 6 years ago

      very good idea

    • Commandrix profile image

      Heidi 7 years ago from Benson, IL

      I've bought a couple books from these guys, they're awesome & I love that they support so many good causes.

    • profile image

      CrystalGillis 7 years ago

      They are the best! I'm so glad someone thought to feature Better World Books! I buy used books when I can, and I try to always remember to see if Better World Books has the ones I'm interested in before buying. Such a wonderful book seller! They usually beat everyone else's prices, too!

    • sidther lm profile image

      sidther lm 7 years ago

      Great info! My husband needs more text books, they will be the first place I check!

      Great lens!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hadn't heard about BWB, so thanks for sharing this and spreading the word. It's great to see that needy people are getting a helping hand through this work!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I had not heard about Better World Books and found this very interesting.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 7 years ago

      That is a great organisation and I also feature it on some of my book lenses. Well done and featured on How to Buy Books Online

    • profile image

      ksrpraj 7 years ago

      This is quite a interesting lens about better world books. Shared with and liked with facebook. Do share your comments on my lens

    • natashaely profile image

      natashaely 7 years ago

      I like the idea and this sounds like a great company. i buy so many books that this would be a great one to use! Thank you!

    • profile image

      Tamara14 7 years ago

      This is news for me, but sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • MamaRuth profile image

      MamaRuth 7 years ago

      I'm familiar with some of the companies that sell online, but haven't heard of this one. Thanks; I'll check it out!

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 7 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Never hear about them. It's a different way to give to charity, books can go a long way in helping the less fortunate to have an access to reading and learning material.

    • snowcloud profile image

      snowcloud 7 years ago

      A+ work

    • I-sparkle profile image

      I-sparkle 7 years ago

      Never worked with them. My husband had a horrible experience trying to find used books for his classes this past year. Wish we had heard of you first. Great lens! Too short. I wanted more, more. Great information, entertaining and interesting!