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WOB’s Women’s International Day, World Book Day and Mother’s Day “Elevate Women” used book subscription offer champions women authors of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Subscriptions range from £9.99 for 3 months (1 book), to £25.99 for 3 months (4 books). After you have read them you return them, becoming part of the Re-Use Revolution started by a man in Goring-By-Sea, Sussex.4-books-2

Simon Downes was born in Bognor Regis, the son of teachers. He is an avid reader and more than usually enthusiastic book collector. He gets through over 80 million books every year. Which is the equivalent of half a million trees.

But he has one of the most sustainable businesses. He co-founded the World of Books (now WOB Group) of which he is now CDO, Chief Development Officer.


Through its sales and recycling old paperbacks and hardbacks, last year the company saved over 37,000 tonnes of new paper with over 20,000 tonnes of books being responsibly recycled. The business also made payments of over £1.4 million to charities for unsold books.

Recently rebranded WOB , the company now has six global storefront and fifteen on-line market places. The circular economy the company pioneered has become mainstream.KPLIB5

Says Downes who set up with business with two others after working selling electrical components: “ It all started in 2002 , buying and selling books at car boot sales and from charity shops. Initially we were mainly interested in old and rare titles.

Generally, sellers were only looking for a few pennies for the books they were selling and sometimes at the end of the day a vendor would say just take boxes of books for nothing as they didn’t want to cart them all home.KPLIB6

I would look out for subjects and authors which I knew there to be demand for. At this point there were no algorithms or datasets involved, I was just relying on my own knowledge. An early sale was a set of Barbara Cartland books was sold to a collector in the USA for $400.”

It was these kinds of sales which convinced him that he had a viable business model. Not only was there a great demand for the physical book but we were easily able to access a worldwide audience by selling online.PilleyLib1

We sold on line through Amazon and felt that we could improve the software. Soon we were shipping on average over 10,000 books per day all over the world. Now we have customers in over 100 countries.”

In the UK, the online used book market is worth around. £200m pa – approx 10% of the total book sales market – and is growing at about 15% pa. Roughly one in three books now sold in the UK are second-hand.

Pilley library

Downdes is currently reading “My Life in Red and White” by Arsene Wenger. “I’m not an Arsenal fan but I see Wenger as a great sporting pioneer. He changed the English football game hugely in his approach to training, diet and the way he led his team.” Philip K Dick is another favourite author.

Beccy Alford, Head of Brand at WOB recommends for International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day : 

White Teeth – Zadie Smith

The Amateur Marriage – Annie Tyler

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas 

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

The Terrible – Yrsa Daley-WardPilLib2

According to WOB research, more-pre loved books are sold than fashion items. Buyers embracing circular economy are driven by environmental factors and money saving. Vendors sellers are motivated by money and practicality.

The average home has e has 124 books with 15 rehomed each year. “Shelfie” appeal is strong. 84% of us hold onto our books because we like the appearance.

Books are bucking the digitization trend. Digital native generations (under 44s) made up almost two thirds (63%) of physical book sales. 54 million used books were sold online in the UK last year.

Book sales are now worth £2.6 billion in the UK with used books representing 32% of books sold (£326 million) – and Wob sells a book every two seconds.

The most popular now are The Thursday Murder Club/ Richard Osman. Where the Crawdads Sing/ Delia Owens/Normal People/Sally Rooney, The Silent Patient/Alex Michaelides and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.


Adds Dowdes : “We recently found an original ‘Domino letter’ in a copy of James Bond Thunderball from 1965. It’s always an exciting moment finding items like that and checking they are genuine.”

One of his favourite memories is of receiving a phone call from a woman in Australia who had been looking for a book to read to her granddaughter who was travelling over from England to visit. It was a book that her own grandmother had read to her when she was a young girl.

We confirmed we had the book and dispatched it to her. A couple of week’s later, we received a call from the same woman and she was incredibly excited to tell us that the book had arrived, but it was actually the book that she had owned when she was a little girl. It had her name inscribed in the front cover. This story still sends a shiver down my spine and represents what the business is all about. “

Wob recently launched the world’s first Buy Back service for new book sellers through Ziffit. “We’ve been able to donate over 72,000 books to good causes this year both in the UK and abroad, through our partnership with organisations such as BookAid, Sussex2Africa and Own Books. We’re aiming to be in a position where we can donate 1 million books every year. 

In five years time, I see the World of Books Group as the leading global re-commerce business and expanding into other products for reuse. “