Posted by admin on 03.31.2008 at 7:53 pm
Posted by F. Xavier Helgesen, Co-Founder
At Better World Books, we’ve built a business that is fundamentally based on the idea of reuse. With over 2 million customers choosing reused books over new, we have become an expert in finding new homes for old books. But why limit ourselves only to books? I sure can’t find a good reason, so it is with great pride that today I announce the launch of Better World Blend Coffee!
All around the country, coffee shops buy and brew the world’s finest coffee beans. But after only one brewing, all that coffee is thrown out, or at the very best, composted. Why turn perfectly good coffee into potting soil when people all around the country need a fair price on a good cup of joe? We will be launching a nationwide Coffee Drive to collect the country’s coffee grounds. Once back in Mishawaka, the grounds will be carefully combined into Better World Blend – a blend of delicious coffee (only used once! many of our books have been used five or six times!).
Better World Blend will sell for a mere $1.99 per pound (you can pre-order here). Compare that to the $10 a pound that your local shop charges for gourmet beans. And no need to grind those beans! Just add hot water, and you have delicious coffee, ready to serve. Of course, each pound of Better World Blend will taste a bit different than the last, but hey, that’s part of the charm.
Better World Blend will not only usually be delicious, but will have an important social mission. Our nation’s under-tipped baristas are struggling to make ends meet. With each pound of the Blend purchased, 38 cents in change will be dropped in a local tip jar of your choosing, allowing our nation’s baristas to fully pursue their dreams of becoming graffiti artists and covering Jack Johnson songs at open mike nights.
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Posted by admin on 03.31.2008 at 5:11 pm
Psst… I’ve got a secret about Better World Books!
In the not so distant future, here are some things you can look forward to:
A Better World Books facebook fan page
A Better World Books facebook app to RSS the blog
And best of all… a prettier and 100000% more functional blog (including author bio’s, recent post lists, recent comment updates, social bookmarking, Flickr streaming and more!)
Posts that include author interviews, contests, polls and a myriad of staff picks and new features!
Me being able to get some sleep instead of working on these supersweet updates (hooray!)
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, blog
Posted by admin on 03.27.2008 at 10:45 am
Niko [Tomlinson, Midwest Senior Director] and I got to meet up with Dustin [Holland, Head of Acquisitions] and LPTZ (the Library Division) yesterday to see John Wood speak here in Minneapolis. It was really awesome. John Wood is a FUNNY guy, and handsome as heck, and he started Room to Read – very cool cat. Very sincere cat. He really believes in the mission of RTR. He was discussing the ultimate dreams of the organization and said that anywhere there is illiteracy is where Room to Read eventually wants to be. They are planning to expand farther into Africa this year and eventually, who knows, perhaps the whole globe will have RTR schools and libraries available.
Anyhoo, he gave a bunch of new RTR numbers that I thought I’d pass on. I think a lot of this is available through their website, but why fish in a lake when you can aim in a barrel?* Exactly.
-110,000,000 kids aged 4-10 are not enrolled in school. (interesting point, if you lined all of these kids up and spaced them 1ft apart, they would stretch from Mpls, eastward across the Atlantic, across Europe, across Asia, across the Pacific, and all the way to California.
-800,000,000 people worldwide cannot read or write (that is ~1/7 of the population of the earth!)
-2/3 of both of the above categories are women (ouch, this sexist planet – John Wood, btw, is not sexist, he had a 2 minute rage on about the educational oppression of women and that so many women and men who live in a far more egalitarian society take it all for granted … I <3 him)
-In Cambodia, the ratio of boys to girls enrolled in secondary school is 3:1
When the 2005 tsunami hit Sri Lanka, Room To Read had no team set up in the country. The tsunami destroyed 250 schools in Sri Lanka alone. John Wood and the RTR board had an emergency meeting, hired a team ASAP and within one year had rebuilt 39 new schools. Awesome. Within two years, the number had shot to 89 since the tsunami.
So, RTR has a 12% overhead. They keep their overhead so low by setting up fundraising posts all over the globe. Volunteers in cities throughout the US, Europe and parts of Asia are constantly fundraising through word-of-mouth initiatives. I believe he said that this accounts for 1/3 of the funding that Room To Read receives. Neat!
-5,000 libraries built (in 2007, they opened 1,600 libraries!)
-444 schools built (and they’re planning to construct 250 more in 2008!)
-250 original children’s book titles published (To write these books, they find authors, illustrators, and editors in the country. The first books were for Nepal, and when RTR began searching for authors they were told by numerous sources that they most likely wouldn’t find any, as children’s lit had never been present in the culture. Soon after this, though, they found a group, the Nepal Children’s Literacy Initiative … or something like that, and within one month of touching base with this group they received more than 30 children’s books manuscripts! Ha! Now, many of the titles have been written and illustrated by children who attend the RTR schools (cute!))
-As of 2007, 4000 girls were receiving full scholarships to school. In 2008, they want to see this number grow to 7000. (The scholarships, FYI, provide a full ride so long as the girl continues to pass her classes. Each year that she passes, the scholarship is renewed.
And finally, the Dream Big Goals:
20,000 libraries opened.
10,000,000 children helped by RTR programs.
And that’s all of it! I could probably write another 6 pages just on how awesome a speaker and man I think John Wood is. Perhaps a new personal hero.
Have a great day guys!!
*Side note from Aaron King, Director
Abby, funny that you reference shooting fish in a barrel: I watched Mythbusters last night, and they were investigating the origin of the phrase and actually ease of shooting fish in a barrel. Their initial attempts showed that it is actually very difficult to hit a fish swimming in a barrel (they used a fake fish)… but they did some additional research and discovered that you don’t have to hit a fish, but simply firing a gun into a barrel of water creates such a disruption of the water pressure that any fish in the barrel would be killed instantly… that’s what makes shooting fish in a barrel so easy! And don’t worry, they did not use any live fish, they came to all these conclusions through science and data.
Great stuff about Room to Read!
Posted by admin on 03.24.2008 at 1:40 pm
Well, I have not read any good books lately but I had a great story told to me by a potential LPTZ client. At their local county library directors meeting, a fellow director got up in front of their colleagues to RAVE about this new Discards & Donations program that she had been introduced to. The statement made was “Hey, the program is free, they pay for your shipping, and all you have to do is scan a book and they tell you immediately if they can use it or not!!! It’s as simple as that”.
She also stated how books usually sold for 25 cents at the libray book sale, but with our program she stood to make a quarter more per book and support literacy at the same time. This library director was so excited that the potential client telling me this story said that she went on, and on, and on; which lets me know that word of mouth still remains by far the best marketing tool! By the way, the supporter of our program has not even signed up yet but is this excited based on a good conversation. YOU CANNOT BEAT THAT!!!
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, book drive, library
Posted by Jack on 03.22.2008 at 6:05 pm
You may have noticed that for the first time since August when I took over this blog there’s been a bit of a posting lull. Two reasons come to mind: first of all, I’m traveling across the country by car with all my earthly possessions, from Boston to San Francisco. Second, we’re redesigning the new, totally awesome blog, that’s going to launch (cross your fingers) next month.
On my trip, I’ve been to a number of fantastic places, including the St. Louis Arch, the Great Plains, Arches National Park and today the Grand Canyon. Tomorrow I’ll be going to the Hoover Dam and crashing in L.A. (anyone have a place to stay?). In honor of this I thought I’d find some books about each of them because seriously, if you’ve never been, go to them! Tomorrow’s post will be chock full of great books about some of the landmarks that you should check out be you a visitor to the US or someone who lives here. (The drive through the Rockies on I-70W is of the “life-changing” variety. Unbelievable).
Also, meeting the incredible people I’ve met, in diners, gas stations, national parks and on the road helps keep me even more in touch with our mission of simultaneously promoting global literacy while lining your bookshelf.
By the way, if you’re traveling, may I suggest the “Lonely Planet” series. They’re funny when they need to be and well laid out. I lived in Ireland and traveled around most of the countries in Europe and without my guides I would probably still be lost in Germany somewhere.
1 Comment » | Tagged Book Reviews, book reviews, books, lonely planet, travel
Posted by admin on 03.19.2008 at 3:23 pm
Over at Lifehacker they have an awesome idea that solves two problems: first of all it gives you a place to keep all your books (from www.betterworld.com, natch) and if you’re still hurting on your coolness, the storage technique is aptly known as “Invisible Floating Bookshelves.”
Check out the instructional video and take a step towards a new hipper April.
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, book storage, bookshelves, lifehacker
Posted by admin on 03.17.2008 at 3:29 pm
Having worked with the Human Services Club at Dakota Wesleyan University
since the Spring of 2006 book drive (5 straight semesters, excellent
commitment to book drives and service!), I admit that I didn’t know much
about the amazing work they were doing outside of the bookdrive. I think
one of the more impressive things about many of the student groups we
partner with is that they not only put forth a great deal of energy and
passion into the book drives but also lend this commitment to their
communities, their schools and their fellow students. I want to let amazing
deeds shine here because they are a great example of the impact student
organizations can have:
Hats, gloves, mittens and scarves from the Extremities Tree are donated to the SD Department of Social Services, represented by 1997 DWU human services graduate Laura Bruns. Pictured, from left to right, are Tiffany Hixon, Tami Pickart, Andrea Dalzell, Rachel Streeter, Nicole Krueger and Laura Bruns.
“Students do not have to be a human services major or minor to belong to the club. We have students from other majors who want to be involved in community service/education on areas of social concern and they find the club as a good organization to join.
Besides the areas mentioned on the webpage, last semester the club members assisted Toys for Tots by collecting toys at a basketball game and helping wrap presents before delivery to the families. We also helped assemble food baskets for families served by the Salvation Army, participated in the Take Back the Night Walk, helped bake and frost cupcakes for a volunteer recognition at the local domestic violence shelter (Mitchell Area Safehouse), and attended a conference on “Victim-Centered Care for Sexual Assault Patients.”
In the spring, the group is coordinating two donation drives: The Extremities Tree (we find much more success collecting hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, etc. at the end of winter when everything is on sale in the stores! We box it up and donate in the fall to the Department of Social Services, for distribution to foster children and other families in need) and a used cell phone collection. The cell phones (chargers and cords, also) are collected and donated to the Mitchell Area Safehouse, where they are given to individuals/victims who need to have at least 911 access. Other human service agencies in the area can also contact the Safehouse for cell phones if they have a client in need. Later on this semester we are attending a child abuse prevention conference and will be helping support a mission trip to Tanzania. The monies we receive from Better World Books in return for the donated textbooks are used for subsidizing the projects described!”
-Pam Boline, Faculty Advisor, HSC
Posted by admin on 03.17.2008 at 1:50 pm
So if you haven’t noticed, the Library Division has grown a significant amount in the past few months. In fact, the entire Atlanta Office has really exploded and it’s been both exciting and overwhelming!
You can see the growth of the entire Atlanta Office in the Diagram below (keep in mind this does not include our massive warehouse in Indiana ).
Having more people down here has really made the day-to-day work much livelier. Just today, we had Fiesta Friday Potluck Lunch, which we would have never done before. We even started a team for the Office Complex Softball League!
More importantly, it’s really given us the opportunity to pay more attention to all of the libraries we partner with! It’s been such a significant change to have others to help manage all of our relationships and I hope that you all will benefit from that positive change.
On another note, anyone have any good stories from St. Patty’s Weekend?
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, Atlanta, library
Posted by King on 03.14.2008 at 12:23 pm
[This is Part Six of Aaron's "Campus Division in Cambodia" story. Here's Part Five and this is the final installment!]
Friday January 4, 2008
I think it can go without saying that we began our day with a delicious breakfast at the hotel. Our first stop today was to visit a couple of floating schools; schools actually on large boats in the river. Apparently as the seasons change, and the fishing areas change, and the level of the river changes, this school can be in several areas up and down the river. We were told that one challenge is that sometimes during the rainy season, some families will leave the village, and the students are unable to attend school.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by all the children and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. On the floating school we saw first hand a library that RTR had created. We were able to ask the students and teachers what it was like before this library, and it was as we expected: without fun books to read, the students had no real passion for reading. But in the middle of this library filled with children’s books, there was genuine joy and excitement amongst the children, their passion for learning was being fueled by this library.
We got a chance to speak to some of the school children, and again we were all infused with a great respect and love for the people there.
We got to go on another beautiful boat ride along the river before returning to town for lunch, this time not at a buffet. Our food was really good.
In the afternoon, we concluded our school visits with a trip to a large school in the heart of the city, 6000 students we were told. RTR was able to give this school a computer lab, a language room and a library, which all seemed to be huge helps to the school.
In the library, we saw the same exuberance in the children as we had seen in the library on the boat. The kids are so much more inclined to love reading and learning when they have books to enjoy! A couple of the girls here actually knew some English, and we were able to have some candid conversations for the first time without our translator. Speaking to these young girls in English, knowing how difficult their lives are was a uniquely exhilarating experience.
We concluded the afternoon with some Q and A with some teachers and administrators at this school, and then we were off to a dinner.
This time they had selected a fancy restaurant in downtown for us, and we again narrowly avoided international incident as we ordered our vegetarian specialties, deviating from their standard meal. I believe the waitress said to me “sure, I can make that without fish, but I don’t think it will be any good”
We had some good final conversations with the RTR staff, and then went off to relax and enjoy our final night in Cambodia, hoping beyond hope that everything great we had experienced could truly sink in. It was sad to leave at the time, and it is sad still to remember, but I have a sense of renewed vigor to work harder, better, faster stronger, and hopefully provide even more support for our non profit literacy friends, and count down the days until the next big adventure.
Posted by King on 03.12.2008 at 8:49 am
[This is Part Five of Aaron's "Campus Division in Cambodia" story. Here's Part Four and look out for the subsequent tales in the coming week...]
Thursday January 3, 2008
Believe it or not, we again began the day with a phenomenal breakfast. We met up with a few Room to Read staff, and then took a van out to see the first school. Upon entrance, all the students were lined up and clapping for us. Similar to the fanfare of our first night, this was quite humbling; these students were so appreciative of Room to Read, and I was left feeling like I hadn’t done enough.
We spent some time doing Q and A with the teachers at the school, learning a lot more than we ever knew about what these schools and areas are really like.
We then got to meet the parents of the girls who were receiving Room to Read scholarships. This was a group of amazing people. I do not think I had ever seen true hardship before meeting these folks. Most of them labored all day as farmers, not even making enough to completely support their families. They had to sacrifice even more to allow their daughters to leave, not help on the farm, but instead go to school. But they were all willing to do so, to give their daughters a chance at a better life. I could see real love in all of their eyes.
We next got to meet the scholarship recipients themselves, again a heartwarming experience. They were all eager and cheerful and really loved school. It really made me want to do even more to help.
After the school visit, we again had lunch at the buffet, which sadly was no better than our previous excursion there. But our energy and spirits were so high from seeing that school, those parents, and the students, that I am pretty sure they could have fed us dirt and we would have been content.
The afternoon of January 3rd was probably the most astonishing, incredible, phenomenal, breathtaking experience of them all. We embarked to visit a remote village where we visited the homes of 3 Room to Read scholarship recipients
I used the word remote to describe that village, but I don’t think that begins to capture the real nature of this village.
We began by piling into the van, and driving far from the city, deep out onto an extremely bumpy road for what seemed like an hour. The whole time we were thinking “wow, this is pretty far from everything”. We were mistaken however, because by comparison, this dirt road was actually pretty close. At some points, the road was so bumpy we thought the van would overturn, our heads almost hitting the ceiling. We then stopped, thinking again, “ok, this is far out and remote”. We were not there yet, but rather we were just switching from our van to more of an all terrain vehicle, for the road had in fact become too bumpy to continue. Somewhere somehow some Cambodian must have gotten a deal from an army surplus dealer, because this truck was ridiculous. Imagine a mix between a pick up truck and a Tank. Well not quite a tank, it still had actual tires and not treads, but the tires were pretty huge. We all sat in the back on the bed of this truck like school kids on our way to a barn dance. Several times we felt like we might bounce out or tip over, and that poor van certainly would have ended up inverted had we not switched vehicles. On the bright side, there was no roof to bump our head into. At one point I peered forward thinking “there is no way any vehicle could every traverse that”. Well we did, and from that point on I decided it was better to not peek ahead. Some stretches of the road looked as if it had survived a meteor shower. I also noticed that the front part of the truck where the driver sat, did not technically have a floor, you could in fact see directly down to the road below. Since the driver did not seem too worried, I did not bring it up, but it certainly added to my experience.
The sun and breeze were both fantastic during this truck ride, and even with the bumpiness, it was one of the best journeys I have ever been on. You could even look out across the fields and see people working in the rice patties, exactly as you would expect it to look if you had seen it in a movie. I am also running out of synonyms for the word “surreal”. There was no “civilization” for miles in any direction. All we could see were beautiful wide open fields, mountains in the far distance, and a bumpy road that seemed to extend indefinitely in front of us.
Again we thought “wow, we are pretty far out here”, and again we were mistaken. After what again seemed like an hour in the back of this truck, we finally came to the end of the road. We were not at the village just yet, we were actually at a spot where the road dead ended… into a river. And so, it was time to change vehicles yet again. We climbed off the truck, dusted ourselves off, and made our way onto a large covered motor boat. The splendor of this area continued as we made our way through this river, alternating between patches of thick brush, and wide open areas with an amazing view of the countryside. After another long while, our boat emerged from a thick patch of brush, and we saw what looked like a large log cabin build up on stilts sticking out of the water. Our jaws dropped as we turned the corner and saw an entire array of these stilt houses. We had arrived at Broken Palm, the most remote village we had ever seen.
The village existed as a large number of these cabins built up on stilts, some in the water, others set along what was basically a long dirt alley that we could walk through. Most of the stilts were at least 12 if not 20 feet high. We were told that during the rainy season the river actually rises up above the stilts, and a boat is required to enter the home. Sometimes the water had even risen above the floor level, and the family would have to quickly build another level within their home.
Amazingly enough, in spite of the harsh conditions, this felt like a true community, I sensed true happiness around me.
We were welcomed with open arms into the home of a single Mom whose daughter was off at school on an Room to Read scholarship. The scholarship actually allowed the girl to board at the school, which makes a lot of sense after the ridiculous commute we just experienced. If the parents we had met that morning showed love in their eyes, this woman was beaming love out of every pore. She spoke with such pride and care for her daughter, and we had the most priceless of interviews. This same mother has also taken in a young boy (nephew?) who had lost his parents, and during our conversation with her, he was lying in the back room, working on his alphabet. We finally comprehended what it really meant for a young girl to be able to leave a village and go to school. This day will forever go down as one of the most amazing of my life.
The ride back was even more epic than the ride out, because by this time it was getting dark. I could look up from the bed of the truck and see stars, and I again felt that I could have stayed there for days and been happy.
Upon returning to town, we went to dinner with a couple of the Room To Read folks at a different buffet restaurant. Alas, this buffet had nothing amazing about it, but our day leading up to it was so incredible that again, we could have eaten dirt and been the happiest travelers in the world.
We went to bed this night in true awe of all we had seen: the landscape, the people, the community, the commitment, the remote village, the love. We smiled for having been able to have such a once in a lifetime experience, and I think it is safe to say we all felt a renewed vigor to work even harder upon our return, to do everything we can to aide the people we had seen this day, and all others like them around the world.
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