It's that time of year again, the Ma'ridh al-Kitab (Book Fair) is in town.
Every year, the Islamic University of Madinah hosts a book fair on campus. The bookstores that participate are all from within the Kingdom. Unlike the Jeddah or Riyadh International Book Fairs, you don't get access to foreign book publishers except through distributors within the Kingdom. In the past, the Madinah University Book Fair used to be a place where you could find all kinds of gems. Old books that are normally out of print, the latest prints from contemporary scholars, and sometimes, if fortunate, you could find a book here or their that's considered a true rarity.
I've talked to the Book Fair Managerial Commitee to get a list of the participating Book Stores, but they keep telling me to come back "tomorrow". Insha Allah ,I'll get me a copy tonight and have it up by tomorrow.
If you've ever been here doing the Book Fair, you know what the climate amongst the students is like. Everybody sees books they wanna buy, but nobody has money. These are the days when you start eating one meal a day, and normally it's a packet of Instant Noodles... It's not easy being a broke student on a budget. If you play your cards right saving money during the year, this is a good opportunity to buy those larger volumunous reference books like the explanations to different Hadeeth Collections and the like.
I went there a few days ago, even though I promised myself not to go, because I didn't want to end up spending money I don't have, but I couldn't help it. There's quite a few nice book stores participating this year. The big guns are well settled in their little spots, with their electronic cash registers and up to date inventory lists. The old schoolers are also well settled in with their quick memory and extremely difficult bargain blocking kung-fu techniques. This is where personality and charisma really show their fruit for a student. If you can get the guy for five or six riyals lower than your friends paid for a book, you just earned some bragging rights for the day.
No matter what it is you're buying though, it helps to know which prints and edits of classical books are the best to pick up. It helps to have an elder student near by to ask him about the different prints and publishing houses. It was a lot easier a few years ago when we had a few of the older students still in school.
Nowadays I've been seeing more and more Book Sellers stocking multi-lingual selections. I even saw one guy with little paper markers marking the different languages he stocks books for. I'm not sure what the benefit of selling books in Malay, Turkish or Urdu are for students that read, write and speak Arabic, but I guess it must be more of benefit to the people these students go back to teach.
I'll be going there tonight insha Allah and hopefully will get that list of book houses up, until then, take care and enjoy.