Better World Books Had One Hell Of A Holiday Rush

Socially-conscious Better World Books, a for-profit online bookseller that shares its revenues with literacy initiatives worldwide, released some pretty impressive holiday sales figures recently which we thought were worth sharing.

First, a little background about the company. It was founded back in 2002 by three friends from the University of Notre Dame who started selling textbooks online to earn some extra dough, and has now grown to a company with more than 200 employees. The store sells new titles, but also actively supports book drives and collects used books and textbooks through a network of over 1,600 college campuses and partnerships with nearly 1,000 libraries across the U.S.

Better World doesn’t charge any shipping fees for shipments within the US (and only $3.97 worldwide), and every order gets shipped carbon neutral with offsets from Unlike traditional for-profit companies, Better World Books adds a social component to everything it does as a commercial venture. So far, the company has converted more than 16.4 million donated books into $5 million in funding for literacy and education.

It’s a remarkable company, and I’m really happy to see that they seem to be doing very well, and that they killed during the holiday period. Better World Books reports that its overall traffic increased 131% during the holiday rush, and that they saw a 500%+ increase in gift certificate sales over the previous holiday season. That translated into 194% revenue growth for the site in December 2008 (up until Christmas), compared to the year before.

We asked for some more details, and got some absolute numbers for the holiday sales: December revenues grew to $2.1 million and revenue for this month is expected to top $4.5 million (apparently January is always the best month for BW thanks to textbook sales). The company says it’s on target for $31 million in revenues this fiscal year, which ends June 2009.

If revenues in January actually ramp up to $4.5 million, that will match in just one month the amount they raised in venture capital from Good Capital in April 2008.

Not bad for a bunch of do-gooders.