Bookstore Choices & Options in Saudi Arabia

In the States bookstores abound. There are bookstores which only feature new books and there are thousands upon thousands of bookstores specializing in used books. The larger bookstores in the States also have become popular gathering places with coffee cafes specializing in a variety of differing coffees, juices, sweets and sandwiches. Patrons are encouraged to take their book or magazine they are perusing and sit down in the shop with it. Various benches and tables may be scattered throughout the bookstore as well for patrons to sit down with a prospective purchase and relax. Book signings and lectures and other special events will take place at these bookstores. These activities will be broadcasted on the web pages, sent to customers via email and advertised via the newsletters of the establishments.


The largest bookstores as described above in the States include Borders (, Barnes & Noble ( or B. Dalton Bookseller ( These three to my knowledge are the largest and widest known.


If you view the links you will see that in addition to the books, they also sell gift items, speciality items, music, and much more.


By comparison in the Kingdom one has two choices in the Kingdom which have the largest variety of books: Jarir Bookstores ( or Obeikan Bookstores ( Jarir has the larger selection of English language books. One important aspect I need to mention is that any books coming to the Kingdom are reviewed and inspected for “Islamic content.” What that means if any book is perceived to have material which can be interpreted as unislamic it would likely be rejected and banned from the Kingdom. Now that being said, Jarir does have a wide and varied selection. Obeikan has a fair selection of English but its larger inventory is on Arabic books.


Similar to the US bookstore chains identified, both Jarir and Obeikan will sell much more than just books. Jarir has an extensive selection and variety of computers, components and other electronic items. Both stores are also well stocked with office supplies and school supplies.


Used bookstores are present in the Kingdom but in Arabic with an emphasis on textbooks and research materials. I have not found a used book store which has English language books. Personally I find myself missing the used bookstores. I am an avid and fast reader so back in the States I’d spend a lot of time at used book stores or garage sales which allowed me to acquire the largest variety of books. I would go to the larger bookstores with new books when some of my favorite authors had a new book released which I wanted to add to my collection..


Neither Jarir nor Obeikan offer special programs –yet- like the larger booksellers in the States but I am confident that over time this will happen. Reading had not been as popular as a pastime in the Kingdom with most Saudis preferring tv or videos but I am optimistic that is beginning to change. I am aware of an increase in book clubs being formed in the Kingdom and not only by expats but more Saudis are getting involved in establishing book clubs and promoting reading (both English and Arabic). So as the demand increases the choices and options offered by booksellers will likely increase as well.


42 Responses

  1. When I learned about all the new and exciting malls that have cropped up in Riyadh during the last ten years, I wondered whether the retail book sector had kept up. Now I know it hasn’t. You’ve described the same two bookstores I used to frequent; it sounds like they haven’t changed much, either. I hope your optimism for the popularization of reading is well founded.

    If you have contacts with a Western expat community, you might find a healthy book exchange club.

  2. I’m happy to say that I am engaged with two active book clubs in Riyadh and fortunately through the book club we do exchange books among ourselves as well.

    Yes; it is a drawback living in a private residence as compared to a western compound or organizational compound like KFHS or NGHA which do have small libraries and book exchanges.

  3. Though they don’t have nearly the same collection size as Jarir or Al Obeikan, one place I always visit whenever I’m in Riyadh is Al Shugeri Bookstore. It’s behind the Olaya street Jarir (I seem to remember). Most of their books aren’t really the latest bestsellers, but to a bibliophile like me that doesn’t really matter. I’ve found several out of print or hard to find (in Saudi) books there, mostly Sci Fi.

  4. Thanks for the tip, Saudi Jawa. I’ll look out for it.

  5. the worst part abt being reviewd for ‘islamic content’ is tht it all depends on who is doin it.. like sometimes they confiscate the book BOUGHT from Jarir if u happen to b carrying it on the way bck on an international flight
    n I’ve heard alot abt the used book store market in Rydh.. how good is it?

  6. Muneedsaeed,

    Gosh…that’s not fair…perhaps the books which have been inspected and passed need some kind of stamp inside attesting to that fact?

    I cannot comment much on the used book store market in Riyadh. I see plenty of such shops but the majority of books are in Arabic so I’ve not frequented them. Perhaps someone else can give better insights.

  7. Used book stores (in my experience) are usually a good place to find university textbooks but little else.

  8. Carol,

    Another option is to get the books in PDF formats from book stores in the US. You probably won’t find every book in this format, but the available books will definitely be more than what you can find locally. The prices are low as you won’t pay for the print. Another advantage is that most of the classics can be gotten for free as they are not copy righted.

    I have switched to ebooks about 3 years ago. It took me some time to get used to it, but I like it better than print now as I can carry all my books with me in a laptop.

  9. That’s great! Do you have any good links that can be shared?

  10. Here are a couple of stores that I have used before,

    You will find many other sites if you google ebook.

  11. S in US — You are Great! thanks so much for the links.

  12. I think probably the best resource on the net right now for books in the Google E-Book project. The have tens of thousands of books and other publications that have been digitised and are completely free and a great search engine for them, of course.

    They have books in many different languages. I have used it greatly for German language material.

  13. Thanks for all of the sites listed above everyone! I’m friends with an avid reader here in Jeddah, and evertime I finish one, she loans me three more…which is great, but It just seems that I’m always falling behind. I also joined a book club and have found it very interesting, and a way to force myself to read at least one book each month.

  14. I encourage everyone to provide their links for ebooks and such!

  15. I lived in Riyadh in the 90’s and there were several used book stores with stacks of books near the ministry of the interior. We found really good stuff there and there was a good supply. Now they are not there but if you go down King Abdullah Rd near the Panda jat the unction with Takassussi St you will find on the opposite side a whole row of used book stores. I haven’t been in but they look promising. There are about 6 stores before the gas station and if you have time (and transport) it might be worth taking a look.

  16. Ummsafeer,

    Thanks for your input. I have been in the group of bookstores on Takhusseesee and the primary focus is on textbooks and arabic language books. I’m not aware of used bookstores near the MOI building but will investigate. Were these English language books, do you recall?


  17. hey carol,

    i have visited one in Olaya(near computer market)…… they have a good collection…… someone did mention about e-books…… with google search engine i think any book can be probably located in online….thanks to generosity of online readers… but i guess there are copy right issues for the uploaded material…. i actually prefer reading hard copies myself….. what kind of books u looking for carol?

  18. I’m an avid reader and always bring tons of book s with me from the states. Sometimes I can find good ones here but there isnt much of a selection. American2Saudi can you tell me more about this bookclub i’m very interested.

  19. Hi Aspire, I’m an avid reader and will pretty much read whatever I can get my hands on! The bookstore near the computer market, is it a used bookstore?

    Umm Zubair: Where are you located and what kind of book club are you interested in?

  20. hi carol,

    i was talking about Jarir book store which a little further from computer market. What kind of books you like reading ? there are most books available online….. i love reading autobiographies.. the last one i read was about Lance Armstrong… truly inspiring!!

  21. Oh yes; very familiar with that one.

    Online books are a wonderful resource and option. I ultimately prefer holding the hard copy in my lap when reading. I spend enough time at a computer that taking off somewhere with a book is another way of relaxing for me.

    The last book I finished was “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Well written but I would not necessarily recommend it.

  22. I’m in Jeddah, I love any kind of book. Most subjects are cool with me.

  23. Umm Zubair, I know of several ladies in Jeddah that are knowledgable about book clubs and bookstores there.

  24. If you could help me to get in touch with them that would be great!

  25. Can you please email me separately on this subject: american_bedu(at symbol) yahoo (dot) com

  26. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation:) Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Leafstalk!!

  27. Thank you Leafstalk!

  28. This post caught my attention when I first read it, but I didn’t have time to comment, so here I’m back.. I have couple suggestions.

    For free public books : there are more than 25000 books. For the classics, this is the best.
    some few books:

    Saudi in the US it seems you are a high-tech reader:) I recommend checking Kindle from It’s a wireless library that can go with you wherever you go:). I’m against destroying the world, therefore I only read e-books. And if a book is not available, I’ll get it from the library, scann it by using OCR software such as (OmniPage — it’s the best OCR in the market.) and voila, I have it in my laptop or PDA to read it at my convenience. yea to a green world!

    Carol I’m reading currently Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson. I’m half the way through the book, and I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s an interesting read, I recommend it. “Love in the Time of Cholera”, it was in my list, it seems I’m going to postpone reading it.

  29. Khalid: you sure woke me up on the e-books. I am drowning in guilt now. I suppose it’s the ”curling up on the couch” reading I would miss with e-books, and there’s something about turning pages….

    But, you’re right. Thank you for the sites, as I am an avid reader as well. I’ve read 3 very political books recently (Robert Fisk’s 1200 page mega book) and I need to cleanse my mind! Love politics but I need some balance.

    ”Love in the time of Cholera” sounds interesting, and it seems everyone’s reading it lately. Carol, what was it you wouldn’t recommend about this book?

  30. BTW, if you can handle it, the Dave Pelzer series had me in tears, and left an life long impression on me. 2 of my children loved them as well.

    One of the worst child abuse stories you will read, but in the end, this man rose to be such an amazing inspiration for anyone!

    ”A child called IT” is the first. This man proves anyone can rise above any trauma and tragedy. Intense reading.

  31. I would suggest one see the movie rather than go through the book “Love in the Time of Chlorea.” The author writes well but goes on and on with too many details.

  32. Thanks Khalid,

    I looked at the kindle a few times but decided against it. It is a little pricey, but that was not the deciding factor. I do travel a lot during certain times of the year. Actually the first quarter, I am usually on the road 2 out of 3 weeks. So carrying another device on top of my laptop is just another item in my heavy carry-on. The other issue I have is I hardly read fiction. My books are usually business, philosophy, technology or science books and I have got used a different reading experience, where I can do additional research on the browser if a topic in the book intrigued me. Having access to the web is a big part of my book reading practice now.

    I think there are many forms of reading experiences now a days as technology really made that happen. I love the versatility of laptops and I have a very lightweight one, so I got used to reading with it even on a couch:)

  33. Carol,

    Sometimes the devil is in the details. I guess it all depends on what you like reading. I am huge Hugo fan, so I dont mind very lond winded descriptions.

  34. I know of a good library in Jeddah. The British Community Library – open to foreigners, but not to Saudis.

    I also know of a good publicly-funded library in Dhahran which IS open to all – men and women,. Saudi and foreign. See

  35. Can you please identify any with a selection of English books in Riyadh?! Most compounds will have “libraries” but if you do not live on a compound then you are really out of luck.

  36. Hi everyone, I am a new member of this forum residing in Riyadh.Can anyone suggest me a book store from where I could find Used books for IELTS preparation.I would be pleased if some one having these books ,like to sell them.I m looking for :
    1.Objective IELTS by Cambridge University Press
    2.IELTS 6 by Cambridge University Press
    3.New Insight into IELTS, by Cambridge University Press
    4.IELTS Practice Tests Plus 2, by Longman

  37. Hi everybody…… I have been a avid book reader ever since i was a kid but during school and college years… but now with no support or any book club in saudi arabia I think I am in a losing battle to gain knowledge…Although there are Book shops ( shop to be correct cause there is only one … Jarir ) its quite expensive and you cant share ….. i was wondering if there are any book clubs in Riyadh.


  38. Mun,

    There are indeed book clubs in Riyadh (and elsewhere) but most tend to be private book clubs. I suggest you ask at Jarir about local bookclubs or post to the forum too.

    If you work for a large organization/institution such as in health care or education, many of these employers have libraries as well as book clubs for employees.

  39. Hi
    i am mother of 2 boys, we just arrived to Ryiadh from USA, it is difficult to find a good books for my kids, even in the public library here there is no good english books for kids to borrow or rent. i try to find i way to can buy a good english books, the only place is a book stores like garir and it is very expensive, if anyone interesed to exchange books with me or allow me to borrow his kids books, please send me email.

  40. Hey!this post is from 2008. Are there sny used bookstores open now in riyadh? Im new here. Thanks!

  41. it’s 2015. Hasn’t anyone found a good used bookstore with english books besides Jarir?

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