Book City and provision of books for the development of the city

When it comes to books and their role in the city and community, Iranian cities have fascinating stories to share. This is the land where for centuries books have acted as intermediaries, connecting many horizons, creating even more spaces and stories. On the one hand, it is the books that have brought the holy to the earth and into ordinary households, and on the other hand, they have connected many domains of human life: they have connected the past to the present and to the future, established the relationship between the nation and the state, bridged the East and the West, and even have supported the relationship between culture and economy. Also, books continue the generational flows, as they stitch thousands of pages and layers of human society and culture together. These complex roles of books have even further flourished despite the appearance of more modern competitors and the emergence of new institutions; they continue to play their active and creative role in the construction and development of human life.

Although Book City was established in 1995, since it is founded in such a territory with rich memories and colorful dreams, it attempts to both continue the old role of books in the city and to position books in the complex relations between old goods and new constructions to open up a new path for the development of the communities.

Book City is an Iranian network of bookstores with over eighty active members and approximately 30 thousand square meters of quality bookshop spaces, where 1,200 employees manage and introduce books and cultural products related books to their community.

On the occasion of the opening ceremony of the central branch of Book City in 1996, a book exhibition with 6,000 Persian and foreign books was launched, which was met with a wide reception far exceeding the initial predictions, encouraging all the related organizations in the city and even the government to step in and support the development of Book City. This brilliant start both revealed new directions in the supply of cultural products, and also resulted in the development of new business models the entire chains publishing industry. Thus, Book City started to edit the old agreement between the book and the city: the city accepted that it provides new spaces for the supply and circulation of books, and the book returned from a more marginal product to the context of conscious activism in the community toward its development and prosperity.

Book City does not simply provide various products of publishing industry and cultural goods and services. In addition to the book as the central object, it selects and offers various cultural industries and traditional products, and also prepares specially designed spaces for dialogue and discussion among the community members to review new books and ideas as they are related to their requirements and problems.

Being fully conscious of its own capacities and the environmental requirements, Book City has turned to an institution with both enjoying the highest social visibility and accepting fundamental social roles and environmental responsibilities.

Departments, Units, and Organizations of Book City  

Cultural and International Department is often regarded as the most important department of Book City that pursues cultural and social missions and objectives. Over the last two decades, this department has organized hundreds of meetings on such subjects as introducing and rethinking cultural and literary heritage and it has actually acted as a social academy, a center for study, reflection, discussion, and reproduction of the most central ideas of the past and the present. The activities of this department have included organization of cross-cultural dialogues with writers from other countries in multiple levels and with a variety of formats, introducing and reviewing the works of international writers, and also presentation of Iranian contemporary cultural and literary writers for the general public at both local and international levels. So far, the works and ideas of classical writers and thinkers and a large number of works and profiles of contemporary writers have been the subject of extensive discussions and social investigations. The meetings are often met with a high level of public reception and were generally reported online; also, a large part of the discussions has been published in book format.

Hermes Publication is another unit of Book City, that has started working since the early inception of Book City, and today it is one of the most reliable publishing units in Iran. This publication house considers quality of form and content as equally important and publishes both original works and new translations. During more than two decades of activity, Hermes Publications has published an average of 45 new titles for adults and has also provided a variety of books for children and teenagers to cover all age groups. Various collections of books in multiple genres and for different audiences, including classic and contemporary literature, philosophy and logic, fictional and speculative, literary and cinema analysis, as well as social and cultural reports, illustrate the wide range of Hermes Publications. The same commitment to production of quality books, presentation of the words of the other, and creation of platforms for dialogue are essential in all activities. Publication of bilingual books is a successful line of book production by Hermes Publications that is also most compatible with its foundational principles.

Hermes Records is a label affiliated to Book City founded in Tehran, in 1999. Under the slogan music for music, Hermes Records has published and produced different styles and genres of contemporary Persian music, as well as interactions between western and oriental musical textures and harmonies. It has been described as having “almost singlehandedly built a much needed platform for artists and fans of genuinely experimental Iranian music. Beside a comprehensive coverage of Iranian music market,  the label is officially distributed in Turkey, Italy, UK, France, Germany, Greece, and the Benelux Union. Also, via second-party businesses, the recordings are available in all other countries. As for online distribution, the productions of Hermes Records are available online at Mondomix, Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody, AOL and MusicMatch.

Book City Company is mostly in charge of supply of books and goods from domestic and international sources for the network of bookshops. Importing high quality books and stationeries from international providers, representing international publishers, special provision of books, toys and educational materials for children and young adults, organizing and launching exhibitions, and providing professional supports for the network of bookshops in both provision of books and cultural goods and running and offering cultural services are among the missions and objectives of Book City Company.

BookCityOnline helps the network of bookshops to sell online. Although Book City has always emphasized on physical spaces for the people and the books to meet, there are extraordinary social demands for the provision of books online that are covered by BookCityOnline.

Creative Communications Department is newly established department that concentrates on public relations, social innovation projects, and creating partnerships with other organizations.

Book City Awards is the collection of prizes annually awarded to a number of philosophical, literary, cultural and general book productions that are named after two contemporary figures.

  • Dr. Reza Davari Award is the prize annually dedicated to dissertations with a contribution on contemporary hermeneutics. Dr. Davari himself guides the award and it is one the most prestigious awards today especially for students of philosophy.
  • Abulhasan Najafi Award is given to the books with an outstanding literary translation that contributes to both understanding the international literary figure and the production of a literary work in Persian.
  • Inspired by a story with the same title in the ancient book of Kalileh and Demeneh, The Flying Tortoise Award is a list of books of the season as judged by children themselves and some writers, critics and illustrators of books for children.  The Flying Turtle helps children and families to make the best choice in the field of books for children and teenagers. This list is published in each season and is available for everybody for consultation. The announcement ceremony is often crowded with children and young adults with their families who want to know about the new list and also visit the writers for children.
  • Dr. Fathullah Mojtabai Award is an award given to the best doctoral thesis in the fields of Persian language and literature, religions and mysticism. This award has been organized with the aim of evaluating the quality of theses of doctoral students, identifying the problems, as well as creating a suitable platform for improving the quality level of theses. The selected thesis, after the review by the jury, consisting of the most prominent professors in the fields of religion and mysticism, and Persian language and literature, will be supported to be published in Hermes publications.
  • Khatam Award is another award organized by Book City in collaboration with the Center for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, High Office of Publishing Islamic Culture, and Association of Publishers of Islamic Revolution. The best short stories about the Holy Prophet (PBUH) are awarded annually. The award is not limited to Iran and all the people regardless of their nationality can send their works to participate in the award.

All these, together with the magic of working with book lovers and quality books, makes Book City a dynamic and thriving complex for the presentation and production of cultural goods with firm commitments to social responsibility and impact. It is a platform to enable both the community and its individual members to reach a clear consciousness of their situation and to develop their life projects. Also, the same reliance on books and culture, makes Book City an ideal space for deep reflection and inclusive dialogue for a sustainable life.