For all the bookworms that leave their piles of books sitting for ages with no apparent use, the struggle is over. We’ve just discovered the Facebook page “Book it Forward”, with the purpose of selling donated used books to other readers, and all the profit going to charity. The thoughtful initiative was founded by twenty-eight-year-old Nahla Bassam with the help of two of her friends, in 2015. We’ve spoken to the passionate mother-of-two, and here’s what she told us.
Why did you start Book it Forward?
I started Book it Forward (BIF) for two reasons: the desire to give back to society, by doing good and spreading kindness. Another reason was to let go of our attachments to books and materialistic possessions; to own less stuff as a reminder that people are more important than things.
How many books have you sold so far? And how many charity organizations have you sent the revenues to?
So far, BIF has sold over 3000 books, and made about 100,000 EGP, which was donated to over fifteen different hospitals and non-profit organizations across Egypt.
After people comment with their interest in one of the books, how does the process continue onwards logistically?
After a person comments with their interest to buy one of the books, I contact them in a private message; they either pick it up from the Fifth Settlement or Nasr City, or the books get shipped to their address, which could be anywhere in Egypt.
What’s your ultimate purpose or goals for Book it Forward?
My ultimate purpose with BIF is to have a physical location –an actual place and not just virtual– with more volunteers. I’m also aiming for it to become the number one used books vendor in Egypt and the Middle East.
Do you have a committee that checks the books’ quality before selling them?
Before I accept any donated books, I ask for pictures of them to make sure they meet the quality standards. I don’t accept academic books of knock offs, or books in bad condition.
Are you thinking of expanding your project and start doing conferences or reading groups, for example?
The group’s work is not exclusive to buying/selling. We have book discussions, recommendations and reviews. Members can post their reviews on books they’ve read, and discuss topics related to reading and authors; it’s a positive platform for those who like reading, or would like to start.
Some people on the group complained about the prices. Do you have any clarifications or responses that you want to add?
The price of a book is set according to its price in the market, the demand on it and its condition. Prices are normally 20-50% less than their prices in bookstores. Some people complained that prices should be lower and others thought they should be higher.
Pleasing everyone with the pricing system is a tough task. A big sector of people don’t buy the books from BIF only because they know the money is going to charity, but also because the prices of the books are relatively lower than new ones from bookstores that have become too expensive for some to afford. I try my best to find a balance where the reader benefits from the discount, and the hospitals get the utmost funds that could be raised.
Do you think the younger generation is interested in online reading more than publications?
No, I think there is a joy in holding a book; admiring the artwork on its cover, smelling its pages and flipping through them, and enjoying the texture and the experience that no technology can substitute for any generation. Even my seven-year-olds agree.
What comes to your mind when people say, “banat el ayam di”?
Agda3 nas! Unfortunately, the phrase has been used to refer to how spoiled and shallow some young girls now can be. But my work on BIF has showed me how amazingly inspiring girls nowadays are; from authors and writers to book bloggers, to girls who read more books a month than the years of their age, to young teenagers who happily donated all the books they had when they knew about the cause. I can actually say I’m proud to be part of them, and lucky to have their support.