Coffeehouses in Turkey, which were called “kıraathane” or reading houses in the past, long lost this meaning as card games replaced books in most places. Determined to change this trend, Murat Yanmaz, a coffeehouse proprietor in Akçakoca, a quiet town on the Black Sea coast in the northern province of Düzce, offers free tea for patrons reading a book.
Yanmaz, intent on encouraging more people to read, set up a small library in one corner of his coffeehouse and filled it with Turkish and international literary classics. In exchange for providing a summary of the books read, customers get free tea for a week. Yanmaz said he was pleased to see more and more people of all ages coming to his place to read books. He told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Sunday that he wanted to promote reading among his customers and seeks to diversify his library. He also called on people to donate books to the library. “I have a small library here but want to expand it to 1,000 books probably. If I can have more books, I want to sell some among them to give education grants to students,” he said. His free tea campaign is not limited to book readers. Yanmaz also offers free tea for one week for those who quit smoking.
The rate of people reading books in Turkey has risen from 30% to 42% in the last 11 years, according to a 2019 study by the Turkish Publishers Association, the Okuyay Platform and the research company Konda.
The government has recently launched reading cafes or “millet kıraathanesi” (people’s coffeehouses) to transform the concept of coffeehouses from a hangout for the unemployed and retired to social spaces where citizens can read books and enjoy free drinks and pastries. Upon President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s instructions, more than 30 such coffeehouses were opened across the country over the past two years.