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Book Drop Boxes Help Turn Page on Illiteracy

Better World Books, a "for-profit social enterprise," recently installed 30 drop boxes in the Greater Tampa Bay area, including here in Largo.

Book Drop Boxes Help Turn Page on Illiteracy

Better World Books’ drop boxes may be relatively small, but the company says they make a huge difference.

“A drop box brings 11,000 books a year on average, and those 11,000 books equate to 126 trees saved,” said John Ujda, vice president of marketing for the online retailer. “As the network expands and gets into the thousands, you can image how the environmental impact expands.” 

Back in May, Better World Books began placing 30 drop boxes in the Tamp Bay region, including at the Largo Mall. There are also several other nearby locations: Tri-City Plaza, at East Bay Drive and 66th Street North; Colonial Promenade Bardmoor, on Starkey Road; and at the Kmart and Wal-Mart at Missouri Avenue North and Rosery Road.  

Better World Books is a self-described “for-profit social enterprise” that collects and sells books online. They match each purchase with a donation — "book for book” — and give a portion of proceeds to literacy and nonprofit education programs. 

Specifically, Ujda said the Tampa drop boxes will benefit the local United Way, plus the National Center for Family Literacy, Books for Africa, Worldfund, Invisible Children, and Room to Read.

The business was founded 10 years ago by three University of Notre Dame students selling textbooks online, according to www.betterworldbooks.com. A wide range of new and used material (in good condition) is accepted at the drop boxes.

“Pretty much anything that you would want to read for education or enjoyment,” Ujda said. “We don’t take magazines or phone books or Reader’s Digest stuff.”

Although e-readers continue to grow in popularity, Ujda said Better World Books appeals to customers who still appreciate the tactile quality of a printed book. And Better World Books sees a sale as more than a simple transaction. 

“We’ve recycled over 90 million books,” he said. “There have been over 1.2 million trees saved. We’ve raised $12.5 million for libraries and literacy organizations.” 

Believe the company is profiting off the charity and donations of others? The company’s website says they donate a “significant portion” of proceeds to literacy initiatives and that their system proves it is indeed possible to “do good and do well at the same time.”

Want to donate books to one of their bins? Check out this map for all Tampa Bay area locations.

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