Friday Finds: How Beirut’s Bookshops Stay Alive

Over at Middle East Eye, AJ Naddaf has a look at the landscape of Beiruti bookshops:

As Naddaf notes in this survey of Beirut’s past and present bookshops, “Today, Lebanese bookshop owners are forced to use creative means to stay afloat and survive the crisis.”

The reported essay gives a look at the history of the Ras Beirut Bookshop, which was shut down in 2008, as well as attempts by Rusted Radishes magazine to document a map of bookshops past and present. Naddaf writes that Rusted Radishes “began a tour of the neighbourhood bookstores in 2019, during the early days of the revolution, and most recently held another tour on 24 April, where they visited a few of the over 15 bookstores in the district, including Al FuratBissanDiabco, The Way In, and Barzakh.”

Naddaf then takes us on a tour of several of these Beiruti bookshops.

Abboudi Abou Jaoude, the owner of Al Furat, told Naddaf that, in the past year of ongoing economic, environmental, and political crises, sales had dropped by about 90 to 95 percent. “The last thing a normal person thinks about, unfortunately, is buying a book, because his priorities are different. He needs to eat, raise his family, and to send his kids to school.”

Naddaf also noted that “The Way In Bookstore was known for handwritten tags detailing the price and how much it had in stock. Yet today, with the prices changing so much, the staff frequently have to scribble in with pencil a new price.”

Rantisi, who also teaches at the American University in Beirut, told Naddaf that many instructors have stopped asking students to buy books and have moved to using “free online editions, PDFs, or photocopying short pieces.” Yet she also added: “We cannot continue like this. We want to support the local bookshops.”

Read the whole piece at Middle East Eye.

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