Tucked away in a below street-level, roomy shop in Maadi’s road nine, the Bookspot is a treasure trove for those who love to read. Floor to ceiling shelves are filled with every kind of fiction, latest releases, blockbusters, non-fiction and children’s books. A large part of the collection consists of used books in good condition that can be yours for a fraction of what they would cost new.
The Bookspot was founded in 2004 by Sigrun Valsdottir from Iceland and American Mandy Bush. “We were working together at the time and one day Mandy vented her frustration at never finding the only small used bookstore in Maadi open. Others agreed with her and so we decided to open a used bookstore ourselves,” Valsdottir said. “This was in May and in September we opened our doors.”
The Bookspot advertised for used books and visited leaving ex-pats to buy up what they did not want to take back home. “When we opened we had a small collection, maybe 1500 books, and we expected that we would have to invest for quite some time before the store would become a success but after the first few months the Bookspot was able to sustain itself.”
Most of the used books the store carries are fiction, “because those are the books people are willing to part with once they have read them,” Valsdottir said. Buying a used book from the store comes with an interesting offer; once you are done reading the Bookspot will buy the book back for half the price you paid for it. “It encourages people to bring back the books and helps us maintain our stock and it means our customers can read as much as the like without spending a lot of money,” Valsdottir said.
Used books have a cycle; it takes a few years before popular bestsellers show up on the shelves of the Bookspot. A few years ago the Bookspot started offering new books as well, as a direct result of customer requests. “People would ask for new releases and titles you want to keep on your bookshelves, like classics and reference books,” Valsdottir explained. “Until three years ago we worked with local suppliers but since then we are importing our own books.”
The majority of the books on offer are in the English language, but the Bookspot offers a section of Arabic books that includes new releases, best sellers and children’s books. “We have a growing group of Egyptian customers and this way they do not have to go somewhere else for the Arabic books,” Valsdottir said.
Five years ago the Bookspot launched their website that functions as a virtual store. All titles are uploaded on the site and customers from all over Egypt can order online and have their purchases delivered to them. “Not everyone has the time to come to Maadi so our website functions as their store,” Valsdottir explained. “A lot of our regulars are real booklovers though; they like to physically browse through our books and hold them in their hands.”
Bestselling titles of the Bookspot include the Harry Potter and Twilight series and the children’s book Goodnight Cairo. “During the holiday season at the end of last year the books about Tahrir were extremely popular. Those and Goodnight Cairo are favourite presents to bring to people abroad.”
Valsdottir is obviously an avid reader and laughs when asked if new books coming into the store pose a temptation. “Of course they do, I get excited about new titles but I do not have as much time as I would like to have to read as much as I want. I do take them home though and put them back in the store when I have read them.” A habit that is followed by many of her customers.