It has taken a bit longer than expected, but the Books2All app is now LIVE! You can download it from the App Store and Google Play. We know you support us if you are reading this, so please use the app to donate children’s books (including textbooks) that your household no longer needs and encourage your extended family and friends to do the same.
An easy way to help is by following us on social media and sharing our posts with your contacts. Over time, momentum should build, and all those pre-loved children’s books will no longer lie forgotten on shelves or in attics but will be in the hands of delighted school children, who will love and appreciate them again!
Currently, the app is available in the London area, so if you live there, you can donate right away. If you live elsewhere, you can still sign up on the app, ready to donate, and we will notify you when we have reached your area. We intend to go nationwide as soon as we can.
Lots of wonderful people support the Books2All app
If you have been reading our blogs, which we have posted every week since August 2020, you will know that we are passionate about our mission to provide opportunities for every child by attempting to increase the number and quality of books donated to schools.
In our quest to raise awareness that 1 in 8 of our schools do not have a library and 380,000 children in Britain do not own a single book, we have published blogs from teachers, authors, librarians, literacy charities and others. They all write with conviction about why access to books is essential for everyone’s education and wellbeing. And let’s face it – joie de vivre!
“The important work that Books2All is doing will help to ensure that more children are able to access the resources they need to achieve their aspirations and fulfil their potential. I am delighted to be supporting them in this.”John Simpson CBE
Meet the team behind the revolutionary Books2All app
Books2All comprises a team of volunteers happy to give their time to overcoming educational inequality. Like any organisation, we have members helping with our recruitment, marketing, web development, governance, etc. Since 2020, people have helped for a little while, and others have been with us from the start. None of this would have been possible without any of them, but it certainly would have been a non-starter if it was not for the wonderful work of our app development team led by Joe Flagg.
We are delighted to have a chance to catch up with Joe this week (he is a pretty busy guy, as you can imagine!) to ask him about how the project came together and his hopes for the future of Books2All.
Q: Why does app technology suit what Books2All is trying to achieve?
In technology, particularly the start-up world, we talk about ‘product-market fit’. It’s the holy grail for a new app, and critical to success. It means you have ‘the market’ (people with a common problem) and you have a ‘product’ to address it. Combine them with an app and you can make a real difference to people’s lives.
The Books2All app aims to make a real difference to children’s lives. We knew from the stats that schools had a problem. According to BESA there are 32,183 schools in the UK but 1 in 8 schools don’t have a library. That’s around 4,000 schools without a library!
We validated this problem by speaking to schools that told us they struggle to buy new books and rely on charity shops and bulk donations. However, this process is time consuming and often the book donations are in poor condition or not suitable for their age groups. This situation demonstrated the market fit for our app.
For product fit, we didn’t have to look far. Apps like musicMagpie, WeBuyBooks, Ziffit and Amazon sell secondhand books. Even excluding Amazon, the first three apps have over 2 million downloads, yet you can only earn pennies for selling most books. The first book I uploaded to Books2All was A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Selling it would make me 12p on musicMagpie, so I’d much rather donate it to a school for free.
We knew if we could build a simple app for donating books, we could tap into this huge opportunity and help schools access much needed reading material for pupils. With charity tech becoming increasingly popular generally, Books2All will help hundreds, if not thousands, of schools.
Q: What did you have to consider when building the app?
The most important thing to consider is the design and the user journeys. Fundamentally, the app must be easy to use, so we had to consider this for both the donors’ and schools’ user experience.
For donors, the critical element is that the app is fast and it’s easy to upload books. Our barcode scanning feature helps achieve this and our testing shows you can upload 10 books in under three minutes.
For schools, we needed to understand the information they need about the books. We learnt that a book’s condition is very important, so we ensure donors take photos viewable by the schools. Schools also told us it’s important we include the key stage of each book, so they know it is curriculum appropriate. This essential feedback drove the way we built the app.
Q: How do you work out from a technical standpoint if this type of project is viable?
I often hear people say ‘anything is possible’ in technology, but deciding the minimum viable product is critical to a start-up’s success. We’ve benefited from the volunteer time of amazing software developers, many working day jobs as well as supporting our project. We had to be realistic about the minimum functionality needed to make the app work for schools and donors.
The biggest consideration was making sure we have the basic features to allow for books to be uploaded, found by schools, and that donors are notified of the books they need to deliver.
The benefit of being lean and focused on the minimum viable solution is that now we are live it is much easier for us to pivot and update the app based on user feedback.
Q: How many people have been involved in the app development and what challenges did you face working with volunteers?
We’ve had 25 amazing and highly skilled volunteers involved in our team since we started, made up of front-end developers, back-end developers, UX (user experience) researchers and designers. It’s been a pleasure working with such inspiring people from all over the world, including the US and Madagascar.
The biggest challenge in volunteering is time, as we all have other commitments. Building software is no mean feat. Books2All is a passion project, which made it challenging to predict and maintain velocity (a software development term for the rate of progress on a project).
Q: Can you tell us about the Onja team, how they became involved and the work they contributed?
Onja is a charity in Madagascar that helps talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds learn to code. One of their students got in touch with us over LinkedIn after we posted about our volunteer opportunities. We ended up working together and 12 of their student developers helped us get the app ready to launch. They were all amazing and highly skilled and all of them have gone on to get full-time work or internships. Another fantastic result!
Thank you for visiting our blog. Our vision here at Books2All is a world where every child finds the books that help them reach their true potential. If you have spare books in good condition at home that you think might be appropriate for school children or represent a school and would like to register to receive donated books, please download the Books2All app from the App Store or Google Play.
Bottom inset image courtesy of https://onja.org/