Publishing and bookstores in the U.S. are in a turmoil due to changing business models and technology...But, how would they like to be in a turmoil due to unsafe streets, an unstable government and unreliable electricity supplies? Or even if they would be blown up when they opened their doors?

We in this country really don't have it that bad, do we?

Here is one view from an Iraqi bookstore, the Iqraa Bookstore on Mutanabi Street...which, strangely enough, has tripled in size in the last two years and has experienced a 50 percent increase in business since 2003!

Then there is that ever present threat...But, this little speck of cultural growth shows a ray of hope for a country that was once a great literary, artistic and scientific empire.

More detail about the Iqraa Bookstore is reported by
Hamza Hendawi in the the Associated Press:

The Iqraa bookstore on Mutanabi street has more than tripled in size in the last two years. Business is up 50 percent since 2003.

But, say the store's two owners, the future is uncertain as long as they can't count on safe streets, stable government and reliable electricity supplies.

Yet Iqraa's growth reflects a tiny step forward in a nation that centuries ago was a beacon of literature and science, and that has suffered sustained and bloody bouts of turmoil over the past 30 years.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Associated Press correspondent Hamza Hendawi reports on his latest visit to a corner of Iraqi cultural life whose fortunes he has tracked since the U.S.-led invasion seven years ago.


Iqraa's owners, Atta Zeidan and Mohammed Hanash Abbas, are close friends. In a series of interviews this summer, they talked about the winding down of the U.S. military mission in Iraq, the political deadlock since the March election, the still-fragile security situation and its impact on their business.

"Our dreams are one thing and the reality is another," Zeidan lamented.

The dreams came with Saddam Hussein's overthrow in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The reality, on one August morning, was a long power outage during a blistering sandstorm, and the nagging unease about violence which, though dramatically down since 2008, still manifests itself in sporadic, almost daily incidents.

"Our future plans depend on electricity, security and the economy," Zeidan said.

The future also depends on how the Iraqi police and military manage without the Americans, all of whom will be gone by the end of next year. Both men said they had welcomed the Americans as liberators but were now glad to see them leaving.

"No one in Iraq likes the idea of a stranger coming into his house," said Zeidan. "This is our homeland."

"A year ago, I used to say the Americans should stay, but not now," said Abbas. "I think it is best if they leave, but without stopping their support for the government and the army."

Zeidan and Abbas are Shiite Muslims, the majority that was long oppressed by Saddam and had the most to gain from his ouster.

The two men, both college graduates, opened their store in 1995, hoping to ease the poverty inflicted by the U.N. sanctions that had followed Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. They had fewer tomes then and none of the glossy English and French learning exercise books they now import from Iran. Many people who came to the store wanted to sell their book collections, hoping the money would tide them over at a time when families sold furniture, cutlery and china to make ends meet as the sanctions bit hard.

Today, what began as a secondhand bookstore and a lending library for students has become a major supplier of texts and language-skills books for colleges across the country.

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