Ongoing humanitarian crises in the South American country inspired an innovative peer-to-peer analog book exchange, helping citizens form networks to access increasingly scarce literature

Venezuela is currently in the midst of a humanitarian crisis and political turmoil, and has seen relief efforts focused on food, medicine and other basic necessities. An Australia-based social impact startup is aiming to tackle a different problem in the country: access to books.

Macondo Club, a self appointed “social enterprise” is zeroing in on fulfilling the need. The platform serves as an online community where foreigners and Venezuelans alike can exchange and request books—commodities that have become expensive and elusive in the past decade. Books are also easy to transport since there are no restrictions in customs, unlike electronics and other goods. The analog aspect is intended to have a large impact: With nation-wide blackouts a regular occurrence and the scarcity of technology such as tablets (and the logistics of using them without power and faulty Internet), ebooks can fall short of providing citizens access to the literature they need and want.

The platform works through a peer to peer model and follows a simple premise: A person in Venezuela requests a book and gets matched to a volunteer outside of the country who will be travelling to their city and can bring it along in their luggage. The idea started when Macondo founder, Alejandro Vazquez, saw himself trying to orchestrate a book delivery to his father who resides in Maracaibo. “The easiest way to get him the book would be to buy it online and find someone traveling to the country to bring it to him,” he told PSFK. “But, a lot of people in the country don’t have the networks to find someone to bring it for them—or the money, so it inspired the peer to peer and shared economy model that is increasingly becoming more popular in the west.”

As Vazquez noted, books (for people living outside of Venezuela) are low cost, but yield a high value. “Books are the classic form of repository knowledge; you can link the creation of the press, or industrial revolution, or any event where Venezuelans were free; like when they gained independence in the 1800s, there’s a 100% correlation to access to books from the enlightenment.”

Macondo Club decided to approach the project by harnessing technology to optimize a process that has been going on for years: Venezuelans have been turning to social media and relying on likes and shares to find someone willing to transport goods they need. “Venezuelans are probably world leaders in P2P busines—they just don’t know it. Every time someone wants foreign currency, they go through the P2P model, and that started extending to other products—food, medicine. The technical component enables us to have a solution that can scale. The more who people join, the more efficient it gets and the more impact it can have,” he said.

Books have already made their way from London, Madrid and the Dominican Republic to readers in Venezuela. For now, Macondo Club is looking to be an international Uber of book exchange, to get books inside the country, as well as provide a community where people can share the ones they already have with one another. But, Vazquez thinks the platform has potential to expand and facilitate delivery of other products in the future. The startup makes money mostly from Amazon referrals: All the books requested are purchased online using their link and delivered to the traveler. They also rely on donations to purchase the books for those who can’t pay for them themselves. Macondo Club hopes for a healthy round of investors stepping at its launch party to help covers costs for over 100 books that have been requested.

Macondo Club


Lead image: stock photos from GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Venezuela is currently in the midst of a humanitarian crisis and political turmoil, and has seen relief efforts focused on food, medicine and other basic necessities. An Australia-based social impact startup is aiming to tackle a different problem in the country: access to books.

Macondo Club, a self appointed “social enterprise” is zeroing in on fulfilling the need. The platform serves as an online community where foreigners and Venezuelans alike can exchange and request books—commodities that have become expensive and elusive in the past decade. Books are also easy to transport since there are no restrictions in customs, unlike electronics and other goods. The analog aspect is intended to have a large impact: With nation-wide blackouts a regular occurrence and the scarcity of technology such as tablets (and the logistics of using them without power and faulty Internet), ebooks can fall short of providing citizens access to the literature they need and want.