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Published by Mary Buechler

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Published by: Mary Buechler on May 09, 2012
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Introduction: Better World Books
Social enterprise is the next rontier o American capitalism. It isthe market’s response to ineciency in the current economic systemo the United States. Companies are nancially rewarded or racingtoward the bottom, while the government burdens them indiscrimi-nately through a complex tax code. Meanwhile, non-prots spendtheir time soliciting donations rom the wealthiest to patch holes inthe social saety net and deciencies in environmental policy. So-cial enterprises address social and environmental problems throughearned revenue strategies. Solving social problems on every dollarearned has the capacity to revolutionize the way business and society interact, and the role o government in the United States. I compa-nies create a competitive advantage through a social mission, whilecreating a quality product at a competitive price, all stakeholders win.Social entrepreneurs are chasing the American dream, and in the pro-cess are making the world a better place.Imagine a customer with a choice between two websites to buy a book at the same price. Te rst will donate 8 percent o the protrom the sale to a literacy organization and give you ree shippingthat is carbon ofset.
Te second takes 100 percent o the prot andthe customer pays or the shipping. Tat choice exists today: better- worldbooks.com versus amazon.com. How can a company be com-petitive when it gives away 8 percent o its prots? Welcome to a neorce in American business — or-prot social enterprises. For thesebusinesses, “mission equals margin,”
and they are breaking into themainstream.
journal of undergraduate research
Better World Books (BWB) receives a large portion o its booksthrough donations rom more than 1,800 college campuses and part-nerships with over 2,000 libraries nationwide. For every book thatBetter World Books receives as a donation, with the exception o li-brary donations that oten include a nancial donation to the library,the company’s only cost is collecting the books and stocking themon the shelves, enabling a much higher margin on used book salesthan traditional or-prot competitors. Te increased margin on usedbooks allows BWB to take a lower margin on new books, creating anonline store that is price competitive with the likes o Amazon. In aneconomic recession and a time in which booksellers have been strug-gling, including the bankruptcy o the major chain Borders Books,BWB has grown its workorce by 31% in the last three years. In thoseyears o signicant growth, BWB has raised more than $8.6 millionor literacy and education. In the process, it has diverted more than26,000 tons o books rom landlls.
oday, BWB has donated morethan $9 million and recycled or reused 51.8 million books.
Figure 1.1
Mission/VisionBetter World Books is a globalbookstore that harnesses the powero capitalism to bring literacy andopportunity to people around the world.
Our vision is to be earth’s mostcustomer centric company; tobuild a place where people cancome to nd and discover anythingthey might want to buy online.
Sales$45 million (2010) $57 million(Projected 2011)
$34.2 billion (2010)
Employees200-250 ull time employees (all with ull benets)
33,700 (2008)
Shipping PolicyFree international shipping on allproducts sold by BWB or in theBWB marketplace3.99 shipping minimum on allproducts sold, must pay individualshipping cost on items purchasedin Amazon marketplace
promoting social enterprise through public policy
-Raised over $9 million or Literacy including-$5.1 million or over 80literacy and educationnonprots-$3.9 million or librariesnationwide-Directly sent more than 4 millionbooks to Books or Arica, theNational Center or Family Literacy,and Feed the Children
-No specic contribution data isavailable online.
-In 2009,
Slate Magazine 
publishedan article, “Te New Scrooge: Arethere lemonade stands that devotemore to charity than Amazon.com?”
-Amazon’s 2009 SEC lings andannual reports contain no mentiono corporate philanthropy.
Environment-Re-used or recycled over 60 millionpounds o books-Reclaimed more than 720,000pounds o metal shelving romlibraries across the U.S.-19,000 tons o carbon ofset onBetterWorldBooks.com shipping
-Amazon products ship in boxesmade o 43 percent recycledcardboard-Four out o 11 buildings atcorporate headquarters are LEEDcertied-Amazon is a world leader inselling used goods
Price Comparisons(Total cost withshipping)
op 10 BestsellingBooks o theDecade
$52.07 (save $12.07)
$64.14NY imes op10 Paperback Bestsellers (Fiction) April 2011
$88.59 (save $8.01)
$96.60NY imes op10 Paperback Bestsellers (Non-Fiction) April 2011
$99.80 (save $6.45)
$106.25op 10 extbooksin Sales Volume,Fall 2010$525.31Books within $1 o Amazon: 1/10
Textbooks cheaper than Amazon:3/10$479.09 (save $46.22)
NY imes op10 Children’s’Bestsellers, April2011$129.44Books within $1 o Amazon: 3/10
Books cheaper than Amazon: 4/10$120.68 (save $8.66)
Better World Books demonstrates how a mission-oriented business model can changethe competitive dynamic in a market. A company that donates eight percent o itsprofts to literacy programs is able to compete with the prices o the largest onlineretailer in the world.
Better World Books is not alone. Te company exists be-cause market orces are calling or new business models that inuse

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