While scrolling through a local book-loving Facebook group, a member posted a recommendation for Better World Books in case we were looking for secondhand books to buy at a discount.
It’s the first time I’ve heard of Better World Books and considered the option to buy from an online secondhand book store. I really, really like the idea of giving old but good-quality books a new home, plus the fact that this for-profit company funds literary programs all over the world.
[Better World Books was] founded in 2002 by three friends from the University of Notre Dame who started selling textbooks online to earn some money, and ended up forming a pioneering social enterprise — a business with a mission to promote literacy.
The company offers free shipping worldwide, so long-time customers of Book Depository will enjoy free shipping with this bookshop too. It wasn’t until a couple of months later that I finally browsed through BWB and took a good look at their catalogue.
After adding a couple of titles to my wish list, I decided to place my first order and see if it’s just as reliable as good ol’ Book Depository. If you’re based in the Philippines and want to grab books from Better World Books, here’s the scoop about my buying experience with this bookshop:
Browsing for book availability and listings
BWB has a massive inventory comprised mainly of donations from the community where book drop-off points are available. They manage over 2 million books both in the United States and the United Kingdom, with listings from third-party book sellers too.
A book’s origin is shown in its product page and at check-out along with its condition, price, and copyright information. If a book is out of stock, you’ll only see a “See Details” button when browsing.
The website itself is pretty self-explanatory in that both search and the check-out process work they should, so there’s little to dislike about it. The only issue I have with shopping at BWB is the lack of book images for some books, which puts you at risk of buying the wrong edition if you’re collecting.
Bookshops with huge inventories don’t have the capacity to provide individual photos or information about a book listed on the site. As an alternative, I use a book’s ISBN to track down the correct edition I’m looking for.
With crossed fingers, I placed my first order.
- The Secret Garden (Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Children’s Classics) by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Shipped from Better World Books Mishawaka, USA
- A Little Princess (Puffin in Bloom) by Frances Hodgson Burnett. shipped from Better World Books Dunfermline, UK
- Shipping to the Philippines – FREE
And so the wait begins. ✈
The best confirmation email I’ve ever received. EVER.
Normally I get the generic confirmation email that my books are paid for or are shipped, but I woke up to the most unusual and delightful email from BWB—a letter from the book/s themselves! ❤
Unfortunately I lost the emails as it’s been months since I got them, but I will update this post with my own screenshot of the email when I make my next purchase. For now, here’s a screenshot of the exact same email in a blog post on Digital Charity Lab:
I re-read my copy of the email with a huge smile on my face. I felt appreciated, the books assuring me that my “book-buying dollars” are helping kids around the world.
It really boosted the relationship that I wanted to get back on the site and shop again. It was difficult pulling back, believe me.
My first book mix-up
With two books to look forward to, you can imagine how disappointed I was when I got my first package from Better World Books.
As the label shows it’s sent from the UK, I picked up the package, expecting to see my Puffin in Bloom edition of A Little Princess. But when I held it, the book was thin, light, and quite small for a Puffin in Bloom book.
When I tore of the packaging, my heart sank as I pulled out the wrong book.
I wrote to BWB Customer Service right away to ask for either a replacement or a refund. I sent them the order details and book information, and waited for their reply.
Daria, the person who took my case, was kind enough to offer a full refund for the book. Since I paid for the book with PayPal funds, they easily sent the money back to my PayPal account.
I decided to use the money to buy a different book—a beautiful edition of Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. I placed the order last April 19 and it’s shipping from the USA warehouse. I’m still waiting for this book to arrive before the order is officially completed.
BetterWorldBooks.com tracking log
BWB doesn’t provide tracking services for book purchases—one of the downsides to free worldwide shipping. I’m happy to say though that after two months of waiting, the Barnes & Noble leather-bound edition of The Secret Garden finally arrived.
Since A Little Princess was refunded and used for a different order, I’ll share the tracking log for The Secret Garden instead:
March 26 – Placed order at BetterWorldBooks.com.
March 28 – BWB ships the books to my Philippine address
The week between May 28 to Jun 1 – PHLPost delivers the book to my mailing address.
I was on vacation last week and my household help can’t remember when exactly the post office delivered the book, but it’s a safe guess that it was delivered any time between May 28 to June 1st—two months after placing my order and shipping the book out. There’s just that Rilke book to wait for before my first order is officially complete.
I absolutely love BWB for the work they do, their kickass email, and the opportunity to buy editions you’re collecting for less. However, it’ll more or less cost you two months of waiting and a good amount of anxiety over the accuracy of the order and if it’ll ever arrive at your doorstep. While these things do happen, I’ll probably shop at BWB if I’m looking for used copies or if there’s a sale going on where I can order multiple books for less.
That said, as a bookshop I recommend BWB for readers who are huge fans of free shipping, who can handle the long wait, and who are 💯 fine with getting any specific edition of a title.
As a powerful force for literacy, I urge everyone to support for-profit companies like Better World Books, who in turn are helping other organizations bring books to communities that need them the most. 📚