How it started

The financial crisis that started in 2008, hit Greece hard in 2011. A lot of families experienced the economic pressure while the state faced an unprecedented shortage of resources. All sectors of public life were affected including education. Among the first and stronger manifestations of the problem appeared when –in the beginning of the school year- there was a shortage in the distributed schoolbooks that developed into a significant delay that affected the quality of education. In Greece, schoolbooks are printed and provided by the state, resulting in a single-point-of-failure process. Apart from the obvious waste of resources at all levels, the kids never get to learn to respect books and the value they keep within, as they know that the yearly reprinting process renters them useless.
In this context, in 2012, Sotiris Papasotiriou and his sister came up with the idea for Book4Book , an internet platform for students and their parents to exchange schoolbooks and make them available to their local communities, and organize book exchange events. In 2017 Andreas Varvarigos along with his brother Anastasis, took over the operation of Book4Book.
Book4Book is about social, environmental and financial responsibility. One needs to consider that about 25 million school books are printed in Greece yearly. These books cost roughly 26 million euros and and equivalent of 270 thousand trees. If we count in the number of textbooks and related material which are bought from the students this numbers almost doubles. But what happens to these books at the end of the school year? Most of them end up stored in the basements or even in the trashes. This is a never ending process, with the state printing and distributing exactly the same textbooks every year.
However there’s no expiry date in books. They can be used again and again if they are properly preserved and exchanged. In many countries, much wealthier than Greece, such as France and the US, the state does not give away but instead loans the books to the students who in turn, return them at the end of the school year so they can be re-used again.
Book4book provides a web platform for the exchange of textbooks, a platform to which the students and parents can register as members declaring their approximate location. Then, they can 1) identify which textbooks they don’t need and they are willing to provide to the community 2) identify which books they need and find them through the platform in the neighbourhood, and 3) organize mass textbook exchange events.
Book4book.gr has more than 2000 registered members in Greece, Cyprus and Shri Lanka where it has been deployed. Thousands of views and dozens of book exchange events have been conducted until today.
The main feature that distinguishes Book4book from other book exchange platforms is that there is no central entity that coordinates the book exchange but every individual user is responsible for declaring the books that they have and finding the ones that they need in a close by geographical location. This is both possible and important because in an urban environment statistically you would be able to find within a few blocks, students from all grades at the same density. This implies that on the average the demand would match the supply for the school books of all the grades if students embrace the effort and get motivated to participate, and the need for printing and distributing new school books every year could be almost eliminated. Being able to find the books close to where you live is very important too because transportation and mail delivery of books becomes unnecessary.
The platform is implemented using the opensource platform WordPress and a number of free plugins. Through these tools it offers a secure login system that attaches a geographical location hence everyone can see on the map other registered book4bοok users, see the books that are being requested on one’s neighbourhood and the books that are available by other users and get in contact with them for the exchanges.
In its lifetime, Book4Book has been the platform to organize small and even mass events such as a full day book exchange workshop that took place on Sunday 22 of December 2013 and on Saturday 12 of January 2019 on Athinas Street (downtown Athens). To further reach out to the members, Sotiris and the team contacted several journalists, TV and web channels who immediately shown interest to the initiative. Public Greek TV channels (such as NERIT , Ant1 , SKAI ), web TV channels (Focus Web TV , Athenian-Macedonian News Agency , DR TV and KRHTH TV ) and print and electronic media (Reload Greece , Eleytherotypia and Periscopion ) presented Book4Book in their platforms.
Book4Book was selected to be presented at the opening event of TedxThessaloniki (March 15, 2014). In 2013 Book4book received the World Summit Youth Award for entrepreneurs under 30-years old, in the “Go Green!” category; Book4Book was chosen from among 422 projects from 147 UN countries. In June 2013 our project ranked in the fifth place in the annual European Project Awards competition organized by the European Projects Association. In March 2016, Sotiris was awarded the Everyday Young Hero award by YSA as a recognition of his work in the Book4Book initiative.