On December 27, 2012, Badl Kitabk officially launched the first book exchange social network in Egypt, offering their service for free. The platform seeks to encourage Arabic readers to share classics and new titles in an online community.
While some book lovers seek to increase the number of books in their libraries by collecting hard copies, others are more interested in simply enjoying the stories- hence the rise of the Kindle and other tablet readers.
Collective Reading Network
Badl Kitabk not only provides a medium for sharing books through an exchange, it also creates a social network, allowing book lovers– whom often share things in common other than their current story- to interact and communicate. The website encourages book owners to meet up to exchange books in person as well, paving the way for new friendships between avid readers of the same genre, explains co-founder Diyaa Mahmoud.
The website offers a chance to evaluate books, making it a platform for discovering the newest and most popular releases. Users can share or exchange their reads with friends through Twitter or Facebook, and describe the books they are about to offer for exchange.
Badl Kitabk notifies users periodically about the newest books that others are offering for exchange, through a private account on Facebook or Twitter, as well as a few books from popular writers that may be of interest.
Obstacles & Limitations
So far, Badl Kitabk’s role doesn’t seem to provide any sort of quality assurances or guarantees on interactions with other users. The startup offers some advice, given to users upon their first exchange with others, but the responsibility falls completely on the two people exchanging. Book conditions also don’t currently have any guaranty regarding the quality of a returned book.
Since the platform does not currently own many books for exchange, the process depends heavily on the books offered by the users, somewhat of a gamble in the hands of users.
Badl Kitabk’s revenue model is also still relatively unclear. Ad revenue may be the founders’ target revenue source, but unless they gain a huge number of users, a more commercial model related to charging for book exchanges may be more tenable. One thing is for sure, the website depends highly on its users, requiring a high rate of engagement and a large number of quality releases for exchange in order to get the necessary momentum to succeed.
Badl Kitabk’s ambitious plans include building a database that covers 500 Arab cities, including readers in schools and at university, explains Mahmoud. They also plan to contract with local libraries and add new features to the website to facilitate users’ access to books. One such feature is to allow users to donate their books to charity organizations or to those who can’t afford their own.
They have some major obstacles to the model, but an online book club through exchange could prove a useful and popular business if done right. We will have to wait and see whether they can pull it off.