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.



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