February 12, 2017

With apps’ help, books sold on wheels in Cairo

Cairo - It is quite common in Egypt to see a vendor roaming the streets with a cart selling food but two young university graduates have decided to feed the mind rather than the stom­ach of Egyptians in a Cairo suburb. Their Books Bike is a tricycle-shaped cart on which books are offered for sale.
“We are simply two people in­terested in transferring the joy of reading to others,” project co-founder Hadeer Mansour, 27, said as she presented a book to a cus­tomer.
Before launching Books Bike, Mansour and her partner, Moham­ed, used to sell books at fairs and schools.
“The main problem that we faced at that time was to move around with these amounts of books and we thought that we need people to know us more,” Mansour said.
Mohamed, 26, who requested to be referred to only by his first name, initiated the idea of the bike. The team came up with a design, drew a kiosk-like shape with shelves on paper and gave it to a blacksmith to implement.
“At first, I thought we could use a truck to sell books but it turned out to be an expensive option,” Mohamed said.
Mansour and Mohamed decided to put the shelf for children’s books on the bottom of the bike so young people can easily reach them.
“Usually children go for candy and toys but, in our case, they come over and check books, feel­ing curious to see books on a bike,” Mansour said.
Customers come from a variety of age groups.
“This is an amazing project. It encouraged me to read more, es­pecially that it was hard for me to find bookstores in my neighbour­hood,” said high school student Noura Mahmoud.
Mansour and Mohamed, in addi­tion to selling books, recommend what they consider good reads to their customers as well.
“We read most of the books that we sell to be able to answer any questions and recom­mend readings that appeal to any customer’s taste,” Man­sour said while explaining the theme of a novel to a customer.
Books Bike offers a variety ranging from thrillers and his­torical novels to classics and self-development books in Ara­bic and English.
“We try to attract the atten­tion of even those who do not read,” Mansour said. “People are usually inquisitive to see what kind of books are sold on a moving bookstore. We are often faced by the question ‘Are there people who still read?’ and usually our answer is ‘Aren’t there people who still read?’”.
The Books Bike Facebook page has attracted about 7,000 likes. Mansour and Mo­hamed use the page to write short descriptions of many of the books they have for sale, without revealing entire themes.
Under the project, the two part­ners offer delivery service of books ordered via Whatsapp messaging and Facebook.
“I like to pay frequent visits to the Books Bike myself but, in many cases, due to my busy schedule, I order books and I always get them on time,” said Shaimaa Khalil, 25, a financial analyst. “I believe such an initiative encouraged people to read more.”
The challenge ahead for the Books Bike partners is to be able to acquire licences from the con­cerned governmental bodies.
“We were once selling books and a police officer approached us, asking to check our identification cards then told us to move away from the street. We don’t want this to happen again even if this means we will have to go through all the governmental red tape,” Mohamed said.
The two partners said they hope to expand their enterprise by fran­chising.
“Not only do we dream of hav­ing a Books Bike in every province but we are also hoping to see one on every street all over Egypt,” Mo­hamed enthusiastically said.

23