Sunday, July 19, 2009

Betterworld Books: I'll let you folks decide if they deserve a cookie

They're the largest of the pseudo-Charity booksellers.
They donate more money to literacy promotion in Africa and other parts of the world than most of us make in a year.
Despite the above fact, many folks, including lots of their competitors, are upset with them.
I'll outline some frequent complaints. I'm not asserting their truthfulness

- They leave one with the impression that they're a charity when they're a for-profit company
- They lead college students to believe the books students give to Better World Books are being shipped to folks in Africa -- when in fact those books are being sold, and 5-10% of profits (not net) are going to a fund that sends books to Africa.
- Their management is present on the boards of some of the charities that they donate to, which some feel is a conflict of interest.

I'll note that, in particular, I spoke to a number of students at a local community college who believed that donations to BWB actually got shipped to Africa. Do students at most schools that have BWB donation boxes believe that? I couldn't tell you.

Here's an article, with more information about BWB than most folks have:

An interesting quote:
'For Helgesen, Fuchs and Kurtzman, giving back is a vital part of the operation. Better World Books donates 5 to 10 percent of its revenue back into the hands of libraries and literacy programs around the world.'

Here's my personal take:
They offer some good deals. I've ordered from them maybe a dozen times, and their customer service is good, their grading is usually pretty honest, and they ship promptly. Their packing leaves something to be desired on cheap titles, but when I ordered some new $100 reference titles from them, they packed better than the average bear.
I will note that the single time they really messed up an order through ABEBooks, I got a refund in full, and they didn't ask me to send the book back.
I may show some orders from them in future posts, and may revisit the issue of their public image vs reality if my readers show interest.

* Note: I'm not saying these complaints are either true, nor that they would matter if true. I invite the reader to think about these things.

Additional links:


  1. I wouldn't order from Better World Books if someone paid me to do it. They're huge. They have resources to blanket the internet book sale sites with their holdings. I wouldn't purchase from unscrupulous Good Will.

    If you write to Better World Books about their policies, you would swear that these people are brainwashed, stupid, deviant liars who will defend the regime at all costs.

    1. I'm sure you'd get some of all of the above from them if you spoke to a large enough sample, but you'd likely get a ton of folks who also know less about them than anyone who has read my post above... and have every reason to believe BWB are the best guys out there.