Recently, the Institute of Islamic Education ordered several shipments of books from national suppliers for its research library. Given the cost of the shipments, each order was a significant investment. I thought I would share our experience with some companies that supply Arabic books in the US.
Make sure that you are aware that often the book you see advertised on the website is not exactly what you will get. The edition of the book they ship to you and bill you for is not necessarily the same as the one you thought you were getting when you placed the order.
Recently, we ordered, amongst other books, the ten volume Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah copy of Kasani’s Bada’i’ al-Sana’i’ . That was the only copy displayed on the site and the one we had in mind when ordering. When the shipment came in, however, the company had sent us the Dar al-Ma’rifah edition, which is in 8 volumes and, although costs less, is not the edition we wanted.
Also, be careful to make sure to save your order confirmation receipt/letter. You may order one copy of a book and be sent two copies instead. That may not be a big deal if the book is a single volume. In our case, the book was 20 volumes (Ibn Rushd’s Al-Bayan wa ‘l-Tahsil in Maliki fiqh) and each copy costs $325.00. You don’t want an extra 20 volumes lying around and be paying $650 unnecessarily. Even if the company is willing to correct the order, at the least you will be stuck with sending back the books and arranging for its shipment.
In summary, its a good idea, especially when the order is large, to:
1. Call the company before and after placing the order to confirm the details of the order.
2. Keep the confirmation letter and print out a copy for yourself.
3. Expect mix-ups. (They have happened too often now for me to consider them anomalies).
Keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to all bookstores out there. I haven’t had any problems with http://www.albalagh.net and I imagine it is because the owners know something about books. Some other stores don’t really seem to know anything about the books themselves (indicative by the fact that you find a lot of books categorized incorrectly on their websites). Fadak Books has also been relatively good recently, although I have had the editions issue with them on some occasions.
I’d like to hear your experiences with these companies. Which companies do you order books from? What have your experiences been?