Thursday, April 18, 2024
ArtA peek at the thriving shelves of Jafer Books 

A peek at the thriving shelves of Jafer Books 

Reading books is like tapping into a never-ending stream of knowledge, where each book represents a tributary, flowing with insights, stories, and wisdom. Bookstores serve as bridges, connecting readers to the vast reservoir of human experience and understanding, where bookstores offer a gateway to explore different worlds, perspectives, and ideas, enriching our minds and broadening our horizons with each page turned.

Located in Addis Ababa’s bustling ‘Legehar’ neighborhood on Ras Mekonnen Avenue, stands Jafer Books, the largest bookseller in the capital and a pioneer in the business.

Much like the busy streets of the neighborhood it calls home, the bookstore operates with a perpetual sense of activity. It is constantly abuzz with regular and walk-in customers, each seeking to quench their thirst for knowledge through the vast selection of books available.

Despite the store’s bustling atmosphere, Jafer Books manages to accommodate its influx of customers by ensuring an ample supply of books that caters to their diverse interests.

Upon entering the store, customers can easily find books of their choice.

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A varied array of books graces the store’s shelves, ranging from psychological literature and reference materials to educational resources spanning primary school to higher education, alongside an excess of fictional works penned by various authors.

The store also boasts an extensive collection of scientific and professional materials, among many other genres.

Jafar Books functions as an e-commerce platform specializing in a diverse selection of genres including biography, business, fiction, health and wellness, psychology, sci-fi, spirituality, technology, literature, entertainment, and politics.

The primary channels for marketing are Facebook, Telegram, and the company website.

With such a wide selection, the bookstore ensures that there is something for everyone, regardless of their reading preferences or areas of interest.   

While Jafer Books holds the distinction of being the largest bookseller in town, it does face limitations due to space constraints.

Nevertheless, The Reporter observed that the bookstore’s dedicated and active team of six employees along with the owner effortlessly caters to customer interests, despite the difficulties posed by the store’s size.

The bookstore traces its origins back more than 22 years to the diligent and committed efforts of Jafer Shifa, the founder and proprietor of Jafer Books.

Owning bookstores in the capital was not a common trend over two decades ago. In those times, Jafer and his compatriots would sell books they acquired from various sources on the haphazard streets of the capital, offering their goods where foot traffic was greater.

Unable to rent a shop, Jafer decided to set up his book stall near the fence of the first private printing company in the capital, Artistic Printing Enterprise. He considered the spot his own makeshift store, until the enterprise expanded its premises and Jafer was compelled to relocate after five years there.

“I recall having to pack and unpack 20 sacks of books each morning and night,” said Jafer. “I wasn’t the only one selling books on the side of the street, but I managed to rent a small shop hoping that my customers would follow me. And thanks to the good service I provided, they did. So I extended my working hours until nine o’clock at night.”

It was at this time the bookstore managed to establish the reputation it enjoys today.

Jafer has since expanded the business substantially, opening five branches across the city and cementing its status as “the largest bookseller in town.”

Jafer shared that he derives satisfaction and pride from the success and achievements, but even more so from the recognition his business has gained.

Jafer Books acquires its inventory from various sources, including publishers, wholesalers, printing companies, and imports from overseas. In some cases, the business collaborates with authors to print books locally.

While the market generally influences the number of books stocked and sold, there are instances when the popularity of certain writers can shape market trends.

Seifedin Musa, a supervisor at Jafer Books, says the management does not operate using sale quotas and deadlines, but allows the market to dictate when and how to stock and sell books.

He notes that fictional literature from well-known authors tends to sell best, followed by motivational and psychological genres.

“Our primary customer base is the younger generation, who are particularly inclined towards fictional and psychological books. They believe that these books provide guidance for their future endeavors,” he said. “Older individuals tend to gravitate towards historical and biographical books.”

Seifedin observes the absence of a bookstore association, similar to an authors’ association, has led to imbalances and malpractice in the trade. He says the business is facing hurdles due to the lack of institutional support and technological adoption.

He notes that bookstores must contend with the task of striking a delicate balance between selling books and managing their inventory, while dealing with competition from illicit entities who print and distribute books without authorization.

Seifedin emphasizes the need for legislation and institutional support to regulate the publishing and book market, as well as encourage the involvement of legal businesses and publishers in fostering a culture of reading.

“Despite declining reading habits influenced by factors like political orientation, the impact of social media, and rising book prices, our bookstore remains dedicated to providing a diverse selection of affordable books suitable for individuals with moderate incomes,” said Seifedin.

Natnael Meles, an English language teacher at one of the capital’s private schools, has frequented Jafer Books for nearly four years. He says the bookstore delivers outstanding service consistently, reliably catering to his needs and budget.

“One of the most remarkable aspects of this bookstore is its reliability and dedication to customers. Every time I visit, the staff members greet me with warmth and enthusiasm, making me feel valued and appreciated,” he told The Reporter. “Whether I’m searching for a classic novel, a contemporary bestseller, or a niche non-fiction title, I can rely on them to have it in stock. This reliability has saved me countless hours of searching elsewhere, and I am grateful for their dedication to meeting their customers’ needs.”

Natnael said that the bookstore’s pricing is reasonable and suitable for middle-income earners like himself.

Jafer Books is poised for growth, with ambitions to expand its business and enhance the customer experience, according to its management, which aims to expand to a larger premises.

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