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Saudi Arabia

Bookstores urged to rethink strategies

There used to be quite a number of bookstores selling secondhand books in the Saudi capital, but the number has decreased over the years, according to a literature professor who used to teach at King Saud University (KSU).
“There are only a few bookstores remaining in the Saudi capital and they will also close down if the owners don’t make the right moves competition-wise to stay in business,” he said.
In order to attract customers, he said, they must display good books on their shelves.
“They should ask walk-in customers what kind of books they need and like to read and buy these for the local readers,” he said.
A survey of bookstores for secondhand books showed that there are at least three to four stores along King Abdullah Road. Most of them sell books in Arabic, but also have good old books in English.
These include a biography of Time Magazine founder Henry R. Luce, "Good Times, Bad Times" by Harold Evans detailing his fight as Sunday Times editor against Rupert Murdoch, William Manchester’s "American Ceasar" (biography of Gen. Douglas MacArthur) and the autobiography of former US President William J. Clinton. They also have classics in the English literature.
However, bookstores for secondhand books along Makkah Road are gone. These stores used to be a hang-out for a number of Saudi journalists working for a local Arabic daily.
The former professor added that while it’s true that many prefer to surf the Internet or use their smart devices to read their favorite books, there are readers who still collect books.
“One reason for this is the fact that they take books with them wherever they go and read whenever they have the time,” he said. Among them, he added, are teachers, students, artists and art patrons, among others.
To some, particularly teachers, college instructors and professors, writers or journalists, these are books they use in their work.
He added that travelers to other countries make it a point to visit bookstores, either for new or second-hand books as well.
“Go to Dubai, for example, and you find good books at the Dubai Mall that you can’t find in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The supervisor at the English section of a bookstore chain in the Saudi capital said that “we have buyers who select books to order abroad.”
“We also have representatives who visit book fairs outside the Kingdom and order what they think would sell in the local market,” he said.

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