ESTEEM Outings: Better World Books

Author: Sean McGee


Last Friday the ESTEEM class visited the "Online Bookstore with a Soul," Better World Books, at its offices and warehouse in Mishawaka, IN. The company, founded in 2002 by three Notre Dame grads, has grown to be one of the top online retailers of used books, competing with the likes of Amazon and However, what makes Better World Books (BWB) different, what gives it its "soul," is the store's commitment to using business to promote positive change in the world, an idea they call the "Triple Bottom Line." While it is a for-profit company (actually the last line of the Triple Bottom Line), the company stresses the importance of upholding strong social and environmental stewardship. As a social company, BWB strives to promote literacy throughout the community: in addition to partnering with literacy advocacy groups like  Room to ReadBooks for AfricaWorldfundNational Center for Families Learning (in addition to another 80 groups), at the time of writing BWB has raised almost $18.9 million to support literacy and libraries worldwide. As an environmentally conscious company, BWB strives to recycle all of its stock that is unusable - many books are simply too damaged to resell - and currently has prevented over 150 million books (over 73,000 tons!) from going to the landfill. 

During the trip to BWB, students had the opportunity to meet with company executives, including CEO Andrew Perlmutter, to learn about their experiences in business and how the structure of BWB can be both for profit and for good. Additionally, tours throughout the warehouse gave insights into the book ordering process from donation to checkout to shipping. Evidence of the Triple Bottom Line was everywhere, especially from the people working the floor in the warehouse, some of whom have had the opportunity to go out and work with BWB's literacy partners across the world. Doing good is not a perk of doing business with BWB, it is "written into their business model." Better World Books is more than just a business, it is a force for good and an example of for profit business at its finest.  

Want to learn more? Visit BWB's About Us page or check out the video below:

Who is Better World Books? from Better World Books on Vimeo.