Case | HBS Case Collection | September 2010 (Revised April 2012)

Better World Books

by Michael I. Norton, Fiona Wilson, Jill Avery and Thomas J. Steenburgh

Abstract

Better World Books, a young start-up, provides a socially conscious alternative to Amazon, collecting and selling used books to keep them out of the waste stream, while donating a portion of their profits to support global literacy efforts. The case presents an emerging new business model: the for-profit "B corporation" designed to combine profits and mission. Founder Xavier Helgesen struggles with how to price his products to capture the value of their social good; how to manage multiple channels of distribution, including selling direct to consumers; and managing the social impact of negative public perceptions on the business once the company turns profitable.

Keywords: Business Model; For-Profit Firms; Marketing Strategy; Social Marketing; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Public Opinion; Social Issues; Online Technology; Retail Industry;

Citation:

Norton, Michael I., Fiona Wilson, Jill Avery, and Thomas J. Steenburgh. "Better World Books." Harvard Business School Case 511-057, September 2010. (Revised April 2012.)