What if Egyptians Gave Up Cigarettes for Books?

Several months back, when I was talking to former Dar el Shorouk, current BQFP head Seif Salmawy, I said that books are too expensive for (most) Egyptians. Salmawy countered with the amount of money Egyptians spend on mobile-phone services each month. I can’t remember that figure, but I do remember that Egyptian smokers (40 percent of the total male population) spend about 110LE, or $20U.S., on cigarette purchases each month.

I still think there’s a price-point problem with books—or maybe it’s a library problem, and definitely it’s a distribution problem—but then I wondered:

What if cigarettes (magically) disappeared from the Egyptian market, and everyone (magically decided to) spend the money on books?*

And yes, this is a children’s-lit blog. I can use magical thinking here.

After this, anything is possible…happily ever afters and rainbows galore!

*Of course, this is also inspired by George Orwell’s famous essay, “Books v. Cigarettes,” although Orwell certainly didn’t know the half of it. A thank you to Robin Yassin-Kassab for emailing me the Orwell essay.

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