INTERVIEW: Ranniah Hannah founder of BookBuz about selling books online in Egypt – Books


It was only a few days ago that the Cairo International Book Fair wrapped up its very first summer exhibition which started on June 30 and lasted for two weeks. Yet BookBuz, an online operation selling physical books online, is busy sending orders for titles that had been requested at the book fair but were out of stock.

“It has been a really good season selling books online with CIBF which happened in June,” said Ranniah Hannah, Founder and Director of BookBuz.

According to Hannah, it was not only that “several titles” that BookBuz had online were out of stock “but in fact some titles became out of print and the publisher needed time to send the copies.”

Selling real books online is nothing new in Egypt. The business, according to pioneer Hannah, has grown over the past five years. Over the past 18 months, with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic on gatherings, especially in the spring and winter of last year and this year when the level of infection peaked in Egypt, many have resorted to ordering books online.

“The trend started when people were stuck at home – not being able to go out as much as they would – so they had to distract themselves while reading,” she said. Despite the fact that 2020 has not been a banner year for publishers releasing new titles, “it has been a good year to sell newer titles and some of the old ones online.”

According to Hannah, fiction and history were particularly in demand “with people having long evenings to spend with large volumes to read.” She added: “What’s interesting is that as people browsed through the fictional titles that we put on our website, they also became interested in exploring the classics.”

In 2020, said the director of BookBuz, orders for titles from Naguib Mahfouz, Ihassan AbdelKoddous and Tawfik AlHakim “were particularly high”. She argued that the fact that these titles come in stylish new editions made them all the more appealing to younger customers who were new to these titles.

It was during these months that Hannah got a feel for the growing trends in reading. “There has been a taste for history for ten years now and of course fiction has always been a favorite. However, during this time of COVID-19, those interests have broadened dramatically, ”she said.

“During this year’s CIBF, that interest figured at the highest for the orders we received during the full two weeks of the show,” she added.

With the meaning of what people like to read in mind, BookBuz decided to rework its classification of books to help readers navigate more easily. The titles of Mahfouz, Al-Hakim and Abdel Koddous are no longer under the label of simple literature but rather under the classics.

“I don’t know why, but I think during the Coronavirus months people developed a taste for the classics. I think this is partly due to the fact that two of the main publishing houses had already published the titles of big names like Mahfouz and Abdel Koddous in new and beautiful editions and that they were already there to sell ”, a- she argued.

During this CIBF, she added, demand for the classics “was certainly one of the highest – and some days it was just the highest.” “People were looking for obvious titles, for example the Mahfouz trilogy, but the greatest demand was for titles that had not been made into movies or for titles less well known than the most famous,” she said. declared.

The pursuit of the old and the unknown, Hannah argued, is best demonstrated in this CIBF round with the reprinted headlines featuring selected articles from famed Al-Ahram commentator Abdel Wahab Moutawaa, who had l used to answer readers’ questions on tough social issues on Fridays. Corner.

According to Hannah, Moutawaa’s books, which are essentially a compilation of letters he received with the responses he published, “are this year’s CIBF’s big surprise.”

“I can’t say what the exact best-selling author’s order was at this CIBF for BookBuz but I would definitely say Moutawaa was there,” she said.

“I don’t know if this was only the case for the clients who went to the book fair, but it was certainly the case for our online service – both for the titles which were delivered in Egypt and outside of Egypt, ”she argued.

Historical literature, Hannah added, also featured prominently in BookBuz’s orders over the past two weeks. “Again, I don’t know why, but it could be because with people working from home they have more time to spend reading or because story titles have been in so much demand. So over the past 18 months, headlines blending history and literature have captured the attention of readers this year, ”she said.

This is the first year that the CIBF is held on the last day of June instead of the traditional beginning of the third week of January. The government attributed the delay to fears of a possible spread of the new variant of COVID-19 at a time when the recorded number of infections peaked.

For BookBuz, that probably meant a lot more business than last year when CIBF was held in January under certain restrictions.

Hannah is unsure of the reason for the high demand, which arose despite the book fair coinciding with summer vacation and both Eid Adhah and the final year of high school exams. She knows that despite everything, including the fact that for this CIBF, BookBuz was starting with 40 instead of 70 publishers, the demand was even higher this year than last year when the CIBF was held in winter.

“It may be that this year there are more new titles and when people go online to order new titles, they browse around a bit and find old titles that are interesting,” she argued.

For example, BookBuz often received an order for a new title that could be from the horror section with a few titles from the classics and a few other titles from the self-help or psychology.

In some cases, a family member would place an order for one or two people. “But in general, I have noticed that there is a higher demand for horror books for women and psychology for men. It is also one of the new trends recorded over the past year, ”she said.

Meanwhile, she added that the new labeling “has definitely helped”. “I think labels like classics and politics and literature or history and literature have more appeal to the reader than simpler and more generic labels,” she added.

Further, she pointed out that it is a fact that despite all the damage it has caused, COVID-19 has brought back a higher interest in reading among larger age groups than before. This was reflected in the variety and volume of titles BookBuz has sold over the past two weeks.

“I think the proof of this point is the high demand we had for the books in the religion section for this CIBF – and I’m not talking about the academic books that students would normally go to in the regular CIBF, but general titles. which would otherwise have been mostly in demand during the month of Ramadan; I just think people are getting into the habit of reading more and more, ”she said.

At the end of the CIFB, BookBuz offered some recommendations on the demand they received and also the reviews some other titles have had. Hannah is confident that BookBuz will need to stock up on some of these titles soon as she believes interest will continue through the summer months and into the fall and winter with the more restrictive movement pattern that would likely result in a fourth. COVID-19 wave[FEMININE[FEMININE

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