'Public libraries, cheaper books needed to boost reading habits in Oman'
May 8, 2017 | 8:46 PM
by Syed Haitham Hasan/[email protected]
Dar Al Atta Book Shop _UN_0167-1

Muscat: Oman residents need more public libraries and affordable books in order to develop better reading habits, experts believe.

The cost of buying books from a conventional bookshop in Oman is nearly double the price at which one can obtain books from online stores, such as Amazon, and has often discouraged residents to read.

According to experts, to create a knowledge-based society, books must be made easily accessible at the lowest possible prices.

“There is certainly a lack of public facilities for reading books. Buying books is an expensive alternative and discourages people to read to a great extent, Jane Jaffer, initiator of Dar Al Atta’a ‘Let’s Red’ campaign said.

“We need to develop a reading environment in the country that involves both adults and children. If children see their parents reading, they tend to read too.”

Books in Oman are mostly imported from different parts of the world and therefore are expensive; however, Jaffer believes prices are still too high.

“Most books in Oman are imported ones, but the costs are still too much to encourage reading. The concept of reading books is missing. Even school students are expected to read school books. Reading books must not be confined to serious reading to gain knowledge, but also as a tool to relax,” Jaffer added.

Jaffer heads the Dar Al Atta’a bookshop that contains books from every genre. It sells used books at very nominal prices and readers have the option of returning the books once they are done reading them.

According to research conducted by the Times of Oman, children’s fiction books, such as ‘Hardy Boys’ cost OMR3.5 in Oman, while the price for the same in online bookstores, such as Ebay, is OMR1.5. The cost spread for adult publications is often much higher.

“We need more public spaces for people to read and also need books, especially for children to be cheaper,” said Jamila Hamoud Al Barwani, administrator at Oman’s first children’s public library, which will open this year.

“We need more such spaces to develop reading habits since our children are smaller. Cheaper books will also help people get their hands on books easily without thinking about costs.”

Residents have complained about the lack of books in the country.

“I get books from my home country every time I go back on vacations. A lot of my friends ask me to get books from there as it is either impossible to find those labels or are too expensive to get,” said Harish Gupta, an Indian expat, who has more than 600 books in his home library.

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