Better World Books is an online bookseller which makes profits mainly from collecting and selling used books on the website. As a B corporation, it also donates books and certain funds to support the world literacy programs. From the very beginning of Better World Books’ establishment, its founders have made a clear and specific business plan based the “triple bottom line”: to create social, economic and environmental values worldwide. They aimed to maintain both the social and environmental responsibility as their core purpose and long-term vision. Better World Book’s mission is to not only generate profits through collecting and selling used books online, but also make donations to the world literacy programs. By doing so, they could also preserve a great number of used books from landfills and protect the environment. All of these vision, mission and values of Better World Books are helpful to the company’s leaders in formulating strategic intent because they provide the most fundamental guidelines for their future work and they are also able to motivate all the members of the company to get involved in their work.
Better World Books always strives to achieve a triple bottom line, which aims at creating social, economic and environmental values to its stakeholders as well as the world. Better World Books is a for-profit firm, so its first purpose is to gain profits for its stakeholders. Better World Books raises money from collecting and selling books on the website. Its revenues and sales could also be used to support for reinvestment to earn more economic profits, which is able to sustain the economic profitability. Secondly, Better World Books makes great contributions to promoting the worldwide literacy and education programs. It has donated a large amount of money and books to support those nonprofit programs in society. In addition, Better World Books also pays attention to the environment protection. The reuse of books is able to save natural resources and eliminate production waste. Within the overall operation processes, Better World Books also tries to apply eco-friendly materials and technologies. This business model is sustainable because it benefits not only the company itself but also the whole society and environment in the long term.
Porter’s Five Forces Analysis
Industry Rivalry: High. There already existed dozens of online booksellers such as Amazon.com, Half.com, Alibris, Half Price Books, and so on. Thus the competition in the used-book industry is quite intense.
Bargain Power of Buyers: Strong. The fierce competition of the industry and increasing search tools enable the buyers to make comparisons among all of these online booksellers conveniently.
Bargain Power of Suppliers: Weak. The continuous price wars among those online booksellers enable the book suppliers to decrease their supply prices in order to gain more orders. The popularity of e-books also greatly impacts the traditional printed book suppliers.
Threats of New Entrants: Minimal. The current online used-book industry is already saturated. The popularity of e-books also makes it impossible for new companies to join in the competition.
Threats of Substitutes: Strong. E-books are gaining more and more popularity because of its lower prices, convenience and endless recycling opportunities. E-books have become the most competitive substitutes of used-books.
Generally speaking, industry rivalry and threats of new entrants have the strongest influence. This is already not an attractive industry because of the intense competition and the threats of e-books.
Better World Books’ future competitiveness mainly depends on its management of supply chain, internal operations and brand image. Better World Books has established its own inventory through donations, but it still needs to expand its donation sources and supply channels. In addition to the current campus book drives and libraries, it needs to develop more inventories. In order to achieve its triple-bottom-line model, Better World Books also has to manage its internal operations as efficient as possible. Its revenues are usually effectively reinvested to develop better market values. It tries to reduce the shipping costs and environmental costs. It also has a group of experienced leaders to supervise the internal operations. Most importantly, Better World Books always tries to maintain its brand value by concentrating on its social mission.
Strengths: the triple-bottom-line model, stable supply chain, experienced leadership, mature brand value
Weaknesses: currently limited scale and unstable dynamic between investors and stakeholders
Opportunities: growing emphasis on environmental protection and new leadership
Threats: intense competition and growing popularity of e-books
It is obvious that the competition within the used-book industry is becoming increasingly fierce. In order to create a competitive advantage, Better World Books should try to differentiate its product and services by reducing the product costs and enhancing the service quality. Better World Books should always try to maintain its responsibility on economic, social and environmental values. It could expand its supply chains by promoting more inventories to meet with more customers. It could also reduce the costs by improve the current transport chains. Last but not least, Better World Books should establish the customer-focused service system in order to provide the most efficient service and compete against other online booksellers.