Iranian Couple Turn Their Taxi Into A Rolling Bookstore


The husband-and-wife team of Mehdi Yazdany and Sarvenaz Heraner have started a mobile reading room and taxi service in Teheran, complete with chauffeur-librarian.

The taxi boasts more than 40 titles, 130 volumes in all, stacked behind the back, shelved on racks over the passenger window, cluttering the dashboard, crammed into side pockets and stuffed in the trunk. When you pay the fare, you can buy a book.

The project began by accident, when the two book-lovers stopped in the rain to pick up a pair of forlorn-looking, drenched Tehranis having trouble finding a cab.

Stuck in traffic, the four passionately discussed books, which were strewed about the car because of the 41-year-old Ms. Heraner’s love of reading and job as an English teacher. The couple, who met working at a bookstore, knew that they were on to something.

Mr. Yazdany refitted the couple’s sedan with jury-rigged shelves, then stocked it with an eclectic mix of translated international best-sellers and Iranian classics. They wanted their mobile library to be an inspiration, calling it “Ketabraneh,” loosely translated as Books on Wheels.

They sell about 30 books a day, they say. But they give books away to interested passengers who say they don’t have a couple of dollars to pay for them. Sometimes the two park and unpack their wares in a public place, and once a motorcycle policeman hauled them off to the station for parking illegally. After charming the commander, and passing a few books around the precinct, they left with a special police-issued permission card identifying them should they wind up getting arrested again. The business has slowly become well-known. Iran’s culture minister took a ride in their car last year. The United Nations recently chose them to receive an international peace award.

The couple is now looking to expand the Ketabraneh brand by opening a coffee-shop-book-store-reading-room next to a private school. The school’s owner sees it as a way to encourage reading among his students. The two have started publishing some of their own titles, mostly biographies of inspiring figures including Nelson Mandela and Steve Jobs that Ms. Heraner writes in Farsi from public sources.

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