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7 Questions for Eco-Libris CEO and Founder Raz Godelnik

September 1st, 2008 by Max Gladwell · No Comments

Raz Godelnik provides salvation to an industry that wastes as much as it enlightens. Books, trees, and a blog to tie it all together.

Eco-Libris is the best kind of idea: simple. Offset every book by planting a tree, thus restoring harmony to the forests and publishing industry. We sat down with founder Raz Godelnik to learn more about this growing international effort.

Eco-Libris works with book readers, publishers, authors, bookstores, and others in the book industry to balance out the paper used for books by planting trees. About 30 million trees are cut down annually for virgin paper to be used for the production of books sold in the U.S. alone.

1. How did the idea for Eco-Libris come about?

It all started when I was thinking about paper and the environmental impact of its production. I realized that it might take a while to get to the point where eco-friendly alternatives like recycled paper will replace virgin paper. So what do you do in the meantime? I talked with some friends about the idea of giving people the opportunity to balance out their paper consumption by planting trees and got some good feedback.

The decision to focus on books was made after learning that less than 10% of the paper used for printing books is made of recycled paper and because most books don’t have an online, eco-friendly alternative like magazines and newspapers. It seemed to me only natural to offer book lovers a new alternative to make their reading greener–planting trees for the books they read.

2. You just had your one-year anniversary. What did you do to celebrate and did you reach your goals and milestones?

Since our team is spread in three countries, we made it a global celebration with big parties everywhere. Just kidding…maybe next year…but we did have a happy online gathering and I asked everyone to have a good time wherever they were on our anniversary. I spent it with my new baby girl, which is the best celebration for me.

Regarding our milestones and goals, we had many achievements that we were very satisfied with in the first year in terms of collaborations, presence, brand building, etc. Our original goal was to balance 500,000 books by December 2008, which is still few months away, but as we balanced out 50,000 books in the first year, there’s a very good chance we won’t meet this goal and, therefore, after reviewing our operations, we decided to postpone this milestone to December 2009. With the experience we gathered in the first year of operations, we are positive we’ll get there.

3. You have an Eco-Libris blog. How does that fit into your business strategy?

The Eco-Libris blog is about “books, trees and anything in between.” We write mainly about issues related to the green side of the publishing industry, sustainable reading, green-themed books, deforestation, and status of forests around the world. We also write on our operations – updates, new bookstores we work with, what’s going on with our planting partners, new collaborations with authors and publishers, and so on.

The blog has a very important role in our business strategy. Firstly, one of our goals is to raise awareness to the environmental impacts of using paper for the production of books and the need of change in the industry and the blog is a great tool for that. We tried and I hope that we succeed in it to create a unique and reliable resource where you can find news and views on these issues that you can’t find anywhere else.

For example, when the ‘Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry’ was published this year, we came up with a special 3-part series that gave the most thorough coverage of it you could find over the Internet. We also bring to the table news on alternatives to trees as a resource of paper, discussions about creative alternatives to the current system of textbook consumption, and even guest columns about the way publicists in the industry go green.

Also, it’s an important tool for us to support green books, authors, and publishers–even those we don’t work with–as we believe it’s important to support those who already take steps to go green.

4. Where are you gaining the most traction? Is it with individual consumers or businesses or the book publishing industry itself?

The answer is both. We see steady growth both in the number of individual customers from all over the world, as well as in the number of collaborations we establish with authors, bookstores, and publishers.

5. How does Eco-Libris use social media to market its product?

Social media is a great tool for green businesses like us. It’s an effective tool that assists us on many levels: spreading the word on Eco-Libris, creating relationships with like-minded businesses and individuals, brand building, and advertising specific deals and campaigns.

I think social media is so great because it creates so many possibilities. For example, if we have a new collaboration that we want to tell everyone about, I find writing about it on Digg, Hugg, Newsvine, Care2, MySpace, Facebook and other social media websites much more effective than just releasing a news release. Actually, you get the best results when you combine the two.

Social media also allows us to reach the segments of the markets we’re looking for like LOHAS and book lovers much better than any other marketing strategy I’m aware of in terms of cost-benefit.

Social media is also an important platform to build your brand and let people learn about your area of expertise. For example, we try to comment on posts and take part in forum discussions that are about issues relevant to green reading.

And, of course, social media is great way to network and get to know people and businesses. Many of our relationships and collaborations started from such an interaction.

We’re lucky to have team members with expertise in online marketing, and we take advantage of that by putting a lot of effort into social media networking. This is not an easy task at all–it’s not enough to achieve status and reputation, you need to work hard to maintain them. But it’s also great fun and I love the fact that I get to know and interact with people from all over the world.

6. We use Library Thing, and there are several other “social book” services, including the applications in Facebook. Do you have a preference?

We use several “social book” services, but mostly prefer to use Facebook groups dedicated to related book issues. We find these groups a great platform to network and interact with readers, authors, and publishers. We use these groups also to market Eco-Libris by networking with members, updating the groups with interesting posts of our blog, commenting to others’ posts and so on. So far we have good experiences with these groups, and we find it an effective way to interact with others in the book world.

7. What’s the next step for Eco-Libris?

We are currently focused on expanding our global presence and look for local partners around the globe that will help us to build a network that will reach book readers and businesses in the book industry all over the world. We have just announced one such collaboration in Israel, which also resulted in a Hebrew version of our website.

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Tags: Entrepreneurs · Green Living