Ten years ago a man and his friend were sitting in an attic looking at a few boxes of old books. At that time, charity shops like Oxfam had to pay the council to come and take away unwanted/unsold second hand books as waste. One of the men, Lawrie Hayworth pondered the possibility of somehow getting all those books picked up and sold to raise money for various good causes. The person he was talking to was Neil, my dinner companion on their 10th anniversary dinner - a bit of a computer genius who had a little think about it and between the two of them , a rather neat idea began to take shape.
Lawrie and his friend set up a charity that collects books from a selection of charity shops all over Scotland and the North of England and sells them online and then distributes the funds raised to all kinds of good causes. In this year, to celebrate their ten annivesary they invited four motly crime writers down to their HQ in the borders, and we had a whale of a time.
Initially the charity relied on grants to keep going but then Tom Murdoch-Kenny, seen here with Lin Anderson, took over. He got on board a year or so ago and recognised that it needed to stand on its own two feet and work within an ethical, but profitable business framework. To do this he needed to increase the supply chain, sign up all the charity shops, get it all standardised. So now, instead of it being rather informal, a volunteer drives the books for example from Stranraer up to Ayr, Thurso get theirs down to Dingwall for pick up where they are picked up by the 'Book Van' three times a week.
The books can be used or brand new, as long as they are sellable.
The charity pays for them by weight.
Me, a knife and a birthday cake.... what could possibly go wrong???
My friend Alanna Knight with a welcome piece of shortbread and a nice hot cup of tea.
Alex Grey doing her impersonation of the blonde one from Abba.
Brian is one of the drivers, he's from Glasgow and we got him to point it out his home city on the map,..... just in case you did not know. Th routes are now regular, picking up from north, west and south ( with a bit of north of England thrown in)
There are three depots but Brian and I thought the one in Glasgow was the best...
Here is the head of operations, it was a bitter cold day in the borders, teeming with rain,. So under our Hi Vis, we kept out coats on and drank the tea.
The brave among us climbed the stairs to look down over the giant warehouse. A local farmer is the landlord and gives the charity a very good rate.
They track the cost of the book, the resale value of the book and how fast it is selling- and how long they expect it to stay on their shelves.
In 2015 Bookdonors ventured into Amazon.com as well as Amazon.co.uk and the States have responded very well, over 100 000 sales in the few months they have been operating there.
1.4 million pound turnover is heading up to 1.8 million pounds by March next year.
Soon Ebay and E commerce are getting the Bookdonor treatment.
And the back of the vans are rather neat and fabulous.... they have six vans that cover the three regions.
Hard at work on the warehouse floor, opening up the arrivals as they come off the van.
A co worker sorting out the barcodes. Because it was an important day, she was very well dressed in a pretty blouse but normally it was woolly trousers and big jumpers all the way. It was cold....very cold.
I am proud to be sold, and resold, and maybe even resold again.... by Bookdonors.
As I said, it was very cold and I was listening, scribbling and trying to keep quiet (not easy for me!) so if I got my facts wrong I'm sure Tom will correct me in the comments!