Is Better World Books a Great Bookstore?

Starting in 2003, you'd have already thought the bookstore war had been won. Amazon dominates. Abe, Alibris, Biblio for collectors. But BetterWorldBooks has built a truly great online bookstore.

We've talked some about where used books come from, and what you can do with yours. If you run with that process and scale it up over and over for 17 years, you get something like Better World Books.

Better World Books was founded at Notre Dame University in 2003. It was founded the way quite a few bookstores have been, after a realization that there are a lot of valuable books out there, free for the taking.

During buyback season the founders noticed this and begin collecting those books, and selling them online, and soon saw that the business model was a viable one. A lot of companies have done that, and I have worked with companies that did that, but what's different about Better World Books is that they also tapped into a desire of people to be involved with a company that cares about what they're doing.

Better World Books is taking environmentalism seriously by helping to keep books out of landfills. At the same time that they're making money, they are also helping libraries across the country and keeping countless books from going to the dump. Books that are useful books still.

The founders won a contest early on with their business plan and they've been off and running ever since. They have since sold hundreds of millions of books. Which is all very nice, and philanthropy is definitely something to be admired, but when it comes down to it what matters for our purposes is: is it a good bookstore?

I'd been noticing for a while that when I'm buying off of marketplaces the vendor is very often Better World Books. The quality and the pricing is often significantly better than other vendors. I rarely get a mis-graded book from Better World.

Eventually I decided to just go directly to their site to see how it was. And the site is a lot better than I would expect. The search works well and their coverage is excellent. And the pricing really is impressive.

But what I really like about Better World Books is that I know whom I'm buying from. Marketplaces do have a lot of good competition, and that competition on Amazon dictates what prices things can be even on off of their site, on bookstores like Better World Books. If you sell on Amazon, you cannot sell the same products for less on your own site.

So the prices stay great, but when I'm shopping on Better World Books I don't have to read through the descriptions of different sellers. I already know how they classify books and I know from whom I'm buying. And I don't have to see all of the sponsored search results or the just-launched sellers on Amazon. I know that the book that I'm ordering is the proper book, with the ISBN that they are displaying, and I don't have to contact different sellers for each problem if I find one.

Better World Books generally strives to be the lowest price on any given book which is why I ended up having bought a lot of their books on on Amazon. Buying directly from their site is a more relaxing first step than dealing with reading through all of the marketplace descriptions and so forth.

Go to their individual book page and you will see that they have what looks like a marketplace, but it's all from Better World Books. They have standardized condition descriptions, they tell you where things ship from, and it's just everything you need to know without a lot of complication or variables.

It's always worth checking prices but if you had to choose just one place to buy used books better World Books would be right there at the top of the list

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