Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Review of Bookshops in Amman

I reckon that guides or reviews are swayed by the biases and preferences of those who write them, and this one is no exception. However, you have my word that I tried the best I could to keep the subjectivity to a minimum.

The review will be exclusive to the bookshops I frequent the most (once every 2 or 3 weeks), which means that my assessment is based on first hand experience, and nothing that I heard of or a friend told me.

The scale of assessment will be relative; that is the order is descending from the one that measures the highest (leftmost) in any given category. Inside brackets, the quality is comparable regardless of the order. If I drop the name of a bookshop in a certain comparison category, then simply it means I don't have adequate experience to judge it in that regard. So here goes nothing:

Topics [Diversity]: (Virgin Megastore, Readers), (Books@cafe, Prime), The Good Bookshop, Titles
Topics [Classics]: Virgin, (Readers, Prime), Books@cafe, The Good Bookshop, Titles
Topics [Controversiality]: Virgin, (Books@cafe, Prime), Readers, (The Good Bookshop, Titles)

Staff [Amicability]: Titles, Virgin, (Books@cafe, The Good Bookshop, Prime), Readers

Staff [Helpfulness]: Titles, Virgin, (Prime, Books@cafe, The Good Bookshop, Readers)
Search-ability: Books@cafe* (Readers, Prime, Virgin), Titles, The Good Bookshop
Shelves Renewal Rate: Virgin,... (Readers, Prime), (The Good Bookshop, Titles)

*Using their online catalogue, on the premise that it is always up-to-date, a thing I can't tell for granted.

[Update: in case you were wondering about the contact details of any of these bookshops see this link]
[Update 2: Prime is defunct]
[Update 3: Virgin Megastore sells French books, albeit in scant quantities]


  1. Great list, some topics I hadn't thought about.

    My daughter was at The Good book Shop yesterday with a friend, and just loved it (I guess we don't get out much, esp in that direction). "Mom! They have English books! Places to read! You can drink coffee! American girl Doll Books! Journals!!"

  2. Haitham, I looked in Virgin in City Mall one time for books - they had such a pathetic collection I never considered it again. Have they expanded?

  3. Kinzi,

    That is one good girl that found her good bookshop ;) I am glade she enjoyed it.


    They expanded in a mind boggling way. They also add new books to their collection every Tuesday. You have to pay them a visit soon :)

  4. I liked your review another common thing we both have. For over 20 yrs and in all the countries/cities I lived in I was in the habit to check out bookstores. At some times I felt I almost know every book in every shelf in every bookstore and naturally their prices until I finally settled in Jordan. It is not easy here and you can only dream of a book “Mall” like Folyes in the UK, Barns &Nobel and Borders in the US were you can spend long hours and decide to go very back soon.
    Text books are found around Jordan University, Arabian books are in Abdali and all the way to downtown, then the English ones you mentioned and in question are scattered all over Amman(west). And these bookstores are limited, I repeat, limited to the demand-supply equation which is itself limited due to the lack of interest/interests in reading in Jordan. Although some of these bookstores try to, appreciatively, push books into the market referring to international books reviews and other resources besides local demand for new titles that sometimes appeals to new reader/s. Some of them are even translated into Arabic that I would not read in Arabic since “the translation” that is most of time poor, loses many of it ingredients and the fun parts particularly if they are culturally related. Let alone the scientific ones these are hilarious you would be better off learning English. As far as textbooks go, Jordan is Heaven most of the books are available and if not could be ordered and received within couple weeks, and what you call $100 it is max 20 JD (approx. $34) in Jordan, Arabian books are inexpensive too. However, all the rest are highly priced let’s not include children’s’ books that are prices to be only-for-collectors-books. Children books are priced like high value toys imported to Jordan something like 5 times the original price. Here, what you say $5 it is 25 (JD).
    My resources are Jordanian Internet Bookstores these guys are GOOD. Despite the very limited immediately available number of books, you can get any book from “” or any other recognized bookstore with $1 cost = 1(JD) delivered to your home and paid cash. Now that is something I call outstanding service. The only drawback here is the delivery time (1-3 weeks) and the pleasantly-surprising-book-experience you find in a bookstore that you would buy, in my case, sometimes, impulsively.

  5. Oh cool, there are Jordanian online bookstores? That is some good news :) would you please give me links?

    I sometimes ask my friends who are coming back from the states to buy me books that I couldn't find in Jordan, but that happens every year or so, which means I can't rely on them as a major source of books. I never tried online shopping, but I heard about the Book depository ( and I heard it is very good except for the fact that it takes 8 weeks for delivery, and customs in Jordan may confiscate the book.

    I understand your sudden obsession with a book you just saw and never knew about before, which makes the whole experience of book shopping real life more endearing. It also gives you the feeling of being a book connoisseur ;)

    What you say about the demand is absolutely true, but I have noticed recently that certain bookshops shelves are full of books that I doubt Jordanians might be interested in, especially the classics. That other day in my visit to virgin I stood mesmerized in front of the philosophy and science shelves when I saw classics such as the "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" standing there. It was very strange to see such books in Jordan, which I doubt there is the slightest of demand on.

    Also, I once found the entire collection of Darwin's books which again was weird to see, and I was happier when I knew that it was demanded, so yes, the bulk of books in bookshops are those that are bestsellers or demanded in Jordan :)

    In other instances bookshops are so timid that they might have books which "refute" controversial books, but not the controversial books themselves, which is odd. And sometimes you feel that the process itself is not well organized. You might find one book in a series, but not the other, and when you ask the staff, you discover they never had the other book in the first place.

    But hopefully in few years they will improve as the habit of reading picks up momentum even if it was only in English for the meanwhile :)

  6. I found it kinda of weird, but Virgin has the best book selection in Amman. Nothing beats Kinokuniya in Dubai though <3.

  7. Yeah virgin is the best bookshop in Amman. But there was a time when it was pathetic, when prime was awesome. Now they swapped reputations.

    About Dubai, I almost have no idea, but I remember that virgin in the mall next to Dubai airport, I forgot its name (Aldeera mall?), was a farce. And if memory serves, then the one at the mall of emeritus was vast. That is pretty much all of my experience with bookshops in Dubai :)