Thursday, June 4, 2009

Better World Books

We weeded hundreds of books from our collection this year. We removed a lot of reference books, books that haven't been checked out in a decade (or so), books that aren't relevant anymore. It was a slow process, because we took all year to do it, only weeding when we had time - and space for the weeded books.
What do you do with your weeded books? At ALA in Anaheim last summer, I found out about Better World Books. From their site: "Better World Books offers a no cost program to help you manage your discarded and donated books. We make the most of your books by selling them on over 18 online-marketplaces and sharing the proceeds with you and one of our nonprofit literacy programs. "

It takes time, but there is something very satisfying about sending discarded books to BWB to be either sold or recycled. Each book, after being weeded from our catalog and OCLC, had to be pre-screened through the BWB portal. If the book was accepted it went in one box, rejected books went in another. Sometimes students helped us with the project, but one of our librarians ended up doing the bulk of the work. By the end of next week, we will have sent approximately 35 boxes of books to BWB. They supply the boxes, they pay for the UPS shipping. They don't make us remove the library book pockets, barcodes, etc. We have received just a little money back, but just knowing the books won't be in a landfill gave us reason enough to use BWB this year.

The rejected books went to Goodwill. Where do you send your weeded books?
Better World Books is also a great place to buy used books. Read about how they are even doing well in this economy.


  1. This is fantastic! I can't wait to be involved with it! Mrs. Mason

  2. found you through Twitter. This is fabulous! We have lots of good but weeded books and always are looking for something good to do with them. I'm following you now.

  3. Great - thanks! BWB is a bit of extra work, due to the prescreening process, but I like it! However, I think there are some restrictions about children's books - in case any of you work in libraries for little ones. You might want to double check that with them.

  4. Better World Books is a fraud.

    There is something ethically dubious about pretending or causing people to believe you are a non-profit or charity when you are not one. While Better World Books does donate a portion of their net profit (emphasis on the NET), it is a privately held for-profit that lacks accountability or accounting transparency. Furthermore, Better World Books hurts charities by diverting money and donations from legitimate non-profits and community groups, who must comply with federal and state tax regulations. I have read figures that less than 5% of their income goes to charity.

    If you wish to donate your books to a good cause, I suggest you send them directly to a non-profit, such as the AAUW and not to a "for profit" middle man.

    Better World Books is NOT a non-profit and operates without govermental oversight.

  5. Thanks for your comment. BWB doesn't pretend to be a nonprofit. Take a look at the "Reuse First" library discards part of the website. The overview part has some good information.

  6. BWB is going in for the financial kill even now. Xavier Helgeson is on Bloomberg as I type was interesting hearing him describe his take in words like "what is left over after costs". Spiced with lots of talk of "values". And corporate name-dropping...whew...major name-dropping.

  7. Better World Books doesn't pretend to be a nonprofit, but it dresses up like one, beginning with the inspired name, and the heart-warming pictures of African children around its skirts.

    I work at a large public library that has contracted with Better World Books to take its discards and donations.

    Not every branch is eager to box up books for Better World. Our branch library has discovered, through our ongoing book sales within the library, that local people are eager to buy almost any book, if the price is right. We sell everything that we receive from the public (or nearly everything; extensive mold is not usually appreciated). And we sell directly to the public. Encyclopedias and textbooks--even old ones--are especially popular, because they are seen as benefiting children's education. Among our browsers, we have collectors of ephemera and old books, Vietnam vets who love history, people with literary interests, women who buy up piles of magazines (a quarter a magazine, with an informal bulk discount). Did I mention that this is a poor neighborhood? Very poor, but ambitious.

    Library book sales in neighborhoods like ours benefit the people in the neighborhoods, because cheap prices and good variety allow people to own their own books and further their interests and education.

    And the neighborhood library--a true nonprofit--benefits as well. The $250 a month we bring in from the ongoing book sales adds up, after a year, to a nice little purchase of Spanish-language children's books perfectly tailored to our branch.

    What I'm saying is that giving discarded library books to Better World Books should not necessarily make you feel better. Better World Books plays cleverly on the powerful desire to do the right thing. But why should a nonprofit get all glow-y and good-feeling about funneling publicly-purchased property into the hands of a for-profit enterprise with a nice website?