Book swap
Book Hero holds book swaps for school and university children in the UAE Image Credit: Supplied

A Dubai-based bookstore is giving much-needed support to parents of school-going children who are struggling to make ends meet due to the coronavirus pandemic. Book Hero is holding a daily book swap that allows students to get access to a number of reading materials by simply exchanging them for old books.

Cofounder Montserrat Martin spoke to Gulf News about the initiative that “aims to promote the right to education for everyone”.

“People are suffering from job losses and an overall tight budget, but they still have to provide education to their children. This is the best time for something like this,” Martin said.

How does it work?

According to Martin, used books are brought to their Oasis Mall branch, one of 15 stores they have across Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and swapped for ones people are looking for.

“People come and drop off books from last year, and they might pick up a book someone no longer needs. It’s a community-based initiative,” she said.

The initiative also aims to have a positive impact on the environment. “People can just give us the books that might be used by someone instead of throwing them. It extends the life of the book,” Martin added.

The books accepted at the store are only educational as Martin said the swap aims to help school and university students from across the UAE.

“People drive to us from other emirates such as Sharjah and Ajman because it is very useful for them. I mainly see school children picking up books that might be too expensive at other stores or school sales,” she said.

“A lot of time parents who have more than one child come to pick up books,” she added.

The initiative has been in place for over two years now but picks up the pace during summer as youngsters prepare to begin the next academic year after summer vacation.

Talking about what made the founders at Book Hero start the swap, Martin said: “We [in the UAE] have such a strong sense of community. We thought ‘what can we do to help?’ And we started this.”

Martin said that she often gets questions about whether the business makes money out of the swaps and why would a private entity start a non-profit initiative.

“We make no money out of the book swaps. Of course, people sometimes come and buy other books we have but that’s their choice. A section of the store we are renting is dedicated to the book swap. We just had to help the community,” Martin said, who has been a UAE resident for over 19 years.

“We want to encourage other businesses to do the same. Businesses don’t have to be a charity or a NGO [Non-Governmental Organisation] to help others,” she added.

The Spanish national also said that growing up, “helping each other and a strong sense of community” was instilled in her as part of her Spanish heritage that led her to try to help people in the UAE.

The owner of Book Hero, Mohammed I., said: “Everyone benefits from something like this. I have personally seen our books help students with their research projects and it makes me happy.

“We hope to continue this for as long as we can because we keep seeing people coming back and we want to support them.”


Coronavirus preventative measures


Talking about the coronavirus outbreak and guidelines UAE’s authorities have released to curb its spread, Martin said that Book Hero makes sure the swap follows the same.

“We don’t directly keep the books brought to us on display for swapping. They are carefully taken to a warehouse and kept aside for days before being brought back to the store,” she said.

The swap also has rules regarding the condition of the books they accept.

“No books that are damaged or scribbled on are accepted at the store,” Martin said.

The Book Hero store that holds book swaps daily from 10am to 8pm can be found at Oasis Mall, Dubai in the basement.