Alona Volinsky writes for No Camels.

A network of second-hand bookshops is springing up all over Israel, but not where you’d expect. Israelis no longer have to go to the odd librarian in order to find cheap copies of great books. Instead, they can just pop into one of their favorite cafes.

More than 200 cafes around the country have signed up to the project ‘Same Old Story,’ which consists of selling second-hand books to customers for under NIS 20.

Dolev Gotlib, founder of the project, came up with the idea in order to combine his passion for the environment and a backpacking custom which he practiced when traveling around the world; to pass on the books you cannot carry to other travelers in coffee shops.

“People who travel for months cannot carry with them all the books they brought and therefore they often just leave them in guesthouses and coffee shops,” Gotlib told NoCamels. “There is a constant exchange of books as people leave old books and take new ones.”

According to Gotlib, “today when books are on sale, people tend to buy 3-4 books, when they actually need and are likely only ever to read one of them. The shelves in their homes are packed with books. With ‘Same Old Story’ they have a place to pass them on to. Often we manage to receive very rare and unique books that cannot be found elsewhere, making the project attractive to all kinds of audiences.”

‘Same Old Story’ is part of the wider Israeli organization Shekulo-Tov (meaning, full of good) which integrates people with disabilities into the employment market. Most of ‘Same Old Story’s’ workers are disabled. “This is all about giving those people a chance and integrating them as vital assets in society,” Gotlib said.

The coffee shops participating in the project can choose the amount of books to store and ‘Same Old Story’ workers are responsible for checking the supply and filling the shelves every week. The profits from the sales are divided equally between the coffee shops’ owners and 'Same Old Story.'

According to Gotlib, passing on your books is more ecologically friendly than chucking them into the paper recycling bin. Recycling processes are not always green themselves, he says. “Recycling paper, for example, requires enormous amounts of water, chemicals and resources.”

When books are too worn to be re-sold, ‘Same Old Story’ tries to find other uses for them that delay the recycling process. One way, according to Gotlib, is to use the book bindings to make diaries or notebooks. All the pictures in the books are also re-used as decoration for diaries or even or on retro wallets and handbags.

Gotlib hopes ‘Same Old Story’ will be adopted beyond Israel: “Our plan is to expand the idea to all the cities in Israel and turn it into a trend here and abroad.”

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