Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Book Shelter

Imagine if you could get books for free and unlike a library, you wouldn't have to return them!
That's exactly what The Book Shelter promises to do. This virtual book sharing library, founded by two Emirati  girls, is giving out free books to anyone who asks for them and won't even burden you with shipping costs..they'll take care of it.

Sounds too good to be true...doesn't it? I had the same reaction, so decided to find out more.

The two book lovers 
Mariam Al Khayat , Writer and Film-maker
Shaika Al Shamsi, Writer / Photographer and Art Consultant

What made you start something like this?
A book to us is not just paper glued together..every book represents a life, a story, its someone's voice and thoughts. It breaks our hearts to see books being thrown away or collecting dust somewhere. So we decided to rescue them. 
The Book Shelter is where we house unloved books and try to give them a new life. 

What do you want to achieve with The Book Shelter?
In this age of gadgets the relationship between people and books has been compromised. We are not just making books accessible to people, we are placing them right into their hands. 
We aim to promote reading, and in the near future, create a sustainable reading culture that relies on itself. By circulating pre-owned books we want to develop a responsible community that recycles. 

When did you begin, and how's the response so far?
Actually, we started the project back in 2006. At the time we were "Writer's Block"; a writer's hub where writers submitted their work and received feedback. We wanted our contributors to read so we started this concept on the side (accepting book donations and giving them out for free).

It went on for a year, it was very successful but we shut it down for personal reasons. We revived the project a month ago and renamed it to The Book Shelter because we decided to concentrate on promoting reading.  

The response in one month has been far better than our response in 2006, mainly because social media has made it easier for us to reach people. Also, we were lucky to participate in an event to put ourselves "out there" right from the start. The frequent response we get from people is "whats the catch?" or  "this is too good to be true" "so you are basically giving out free books?"  :) 

What kinds of books do you enjoy reading yourselves? How often do you read?
We both like children's books and fantasy a lot. But we experiment with different genres and recommend books to each other all the time. We read books in English, French and Arabic. But because we like the same kind of books we always end up "stealing" each others books or fighting over the last copy at some book stand lol.
We collect books in our travels, charity events that sell books, flea markets, online, we even try to haggle with stores that display books as part of their decoration. Sometimes we have multiple copies of the same book but by different publishers (different covers)...we love vintage books, the older the better!
And to get us to lose interest in a book, just tell us its a "bestseller" .. mainly because we really just like to make up our own minds about books.
We are book lovers and try read all the time, there is always a book in our purse when we go out ! 

Favourite book/authors?
We have the same list of favorite books and authors:  Arabian Nights by Husain Haddaway, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, The Secret Garden , Narnia Chronicles.
Roald Dahl books really hooked us into reading and One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of our biggest writing's hard to choose one book..our list goes on.. !

The Book Shelter's nook at a recent event

The Book Shelter: Website | Twitter