Better World Books is an online bookseller of used and new books, founded in 2002 by university students.
Better World Books' used book inventory comes primarily from regular book drives at over 1,800 colleges and universities and donations from over 3,000 library systems, in addition to donation boxes found on corners and on college campuses. The company has distribution warehouses in Mishawaka, Indiana; Reno, Nevada; and Dunfermline, Scotland.
In 2001, shortly after their graduation from the University of Notre Dame, Better World Books founders Christopher Fuchs, Xavier Helgesen and Jeff Kurtzman sold their used college textbooks online. The three then formulated a business plan using their experience selling books online. In 2002, Fuchs and Helgesen held a book drive benefiting the Robinson Community Learning Center in South Bend, Indiana. During the drive, they collected and sold 2,000 books, which raised $10,000. Half of the drive’s proceeds went to support literacy initiatives at the community center.
In 2003, the three entered their business plan into the Notre Dame Social Venture Business Plan Competition, which was sponsored by the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. They won the competition, with a grand prize of $7,000 and mentorship from entrepreneur and IrishAngel David Murphy. Murphy served as Better World Books president and CEO from 2004–2011, before leaving to direct Notre Dame's Master of Entrepreneurship program (ESTEEM).
In 2008, the company opened an operation in Dunfermline, Scotland, and started a UK website in 2010. In 2016, the company opened a new distribution center in
Reno, Nevada, creating 150 new jobs.
The non-profit B Lab has certified "Better World Books" as a "B corporation", meaning it meets certain standards for social welfare, because it donates books or a percentage of its profit to literacy programs around the world. As of 2013, the company had donated an estimated $14 million under this program.
In March 2019, Better World Books announced the closure of their last retail location in Goshen, Indiana. The decision has been made in order for the organisation to improve its e-commerce operations and reach more people.
The company discloses information about funds raised, books re-used or recycled, and books donated in a ticker at the top of its website.
As of 2019, Better World Books handles about 30 million incoming books per year, of which 10 gets sold and 10 donated to partners.
On November 6, 2019, Better World Books was acquired by Better World Libraries, a mission-aligned, not-for-profit organization that is affiliated with longtime partner, the Internet Archive. The plan is to digitize many more books and put them online. Between July 2019 and March 2020, Better World Books donated over 700 thousand books (counted by distinct ISBN) to the Internet Archive.
Better World Books donates one book to Feed the Children, Books for Africa, or smaller donation recipients for each book sold on BetterWorldBooks.com. Better World Books provides additional support to literacy non-profits, including:
Room to Read—which builds libraries and schools and provides scholarships in impoverished areas of the world, including Southeast Asia. Room to Read also publishes books for children in multiple languages.
Worldfund—which provides resources to improve English-language skills in Latin America.
READ International- a charity that aims to improve access to education in East Africa by relocating books which are no longer needed in UK secondary schools to Tanzania.
The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) - an independent Irish charity which is committed to making sure people with literacy and numeracy difficulties can fully take part in society and have access to learning opportunities that meet their needs.
Internet Archive - The Internet Archive and Better World Books announced a new partnership in November, 2019, to digitize books for preservation purposes.