Reading Their Way To a Better World

Better World Books is a social enterprise which lives by the motto that “We only do well by doing good.”  From their humble beginnings with the idea of one small book drive to make a global impact on literacy; they now run a massive bookdrive making a worldwide difference.

In May 2002, three University of Notre Dame graduates led a book drive to assist the Robinson Community Learning Center in South Bend, Indiana.  The founders won the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business top prize for social entrepreneurship – the McCloskey Social Venture Business Plan competition.  They used the momentum gained by winning this award to expand book drives beyond the Midwest.  As of January 2011, the Campus Division of Better World Books works with bookstore managers and students leading book drives at over 1800 college and university campuses across North America.  The Library Division currently works with over 3,000 libraries – collected discards and unwanted book donations.

Better World Books claims to measure success through a triple bottom line of economic, environmental, and social factors.  They are a founding B corporation, a new type of company definition with a mission to “create benefit for all stakeholders; not just shareholders.”  The Better World Books mission statement is “to capitalize on the value of the book to fund and support literacy initiatives locally, nationally, and around the world.”  Currently, they raise funding for over 80 non-profit literacy programs.

Better World Books raises money for many non-profit organizations.  The corporation is structured to protect the interests of its non-profit partners should it ever be acquired.  The main charities which Better World Books donates to are:

  • Books for Africa – Large shipper of donated books to the African continent – since 1988, shipped over 22 million books to 45 African countries
  • Room to Read – Supports the construction of libraries, schools, and language labs – publishes local-language children’s books and funds long-term scholarships for young girls in South Asia & Africa
  • National Center for Family Literacy – Whose mission is to create a literate nation by leveraging the power of the family – includes training more than 150,000 teachers and thousands of other volunteers
  • Worldfund in Latin America – Supports high-quality education for impoverished children in Latin America.  Since its inception in 2000, Room to Read has impacted the lives of over 1.7 million children
  • Robinson Community Learning Center – Located in South Bend, Indiana

Better World Books sells collected books through 53 different channels, including Ebay,, and even their own e-commerce site  To date Better World Books has raised millions of dollars for literacy, saved millions of books from landfills, created jobs for hundreds of people, and provided wonderful books to millions of readers worldwide.  The rest of the story is still being written and all are invited to join in the journey.

About the Author

I am a soccer mom, musician, Beatles fanatic,dreamer, chocolate chip cookie maker, and passionate advocate and evangelist for cleantech and cleanweb causes, organizations, and companies that make the planet better in all ways.