It's not what you read, it's where you read. And if you read in the right place (we'll come there), you will be Internet famous for more than 15 minutes! Started by friends Gizem Kendik, Didem Kendik and Deniz Cem Önduygu, Istanbul Okurken (While Istanbul Reads) is a project that posts photos of people reading on public transport (with permission, of course). Whether you're on a ferry, bus, metro or funicular, once you have a book in hand, you can be caught anywhere. But hold on. Before you grab a new tome from the shelf, read this first and enjoy what we've discovered about the project.

Can you tell us about the project and how you came up with the idea?
As curious people who read a lot in public transport (and who like to take photographs), we wanted to [document] this activity. Maybe we also wanted to normalize reading in public transport, and to remind people who complain about not being able to find time to read about this option. We were also motivated by the fact that Istanbul is a city where people spend a lot of time in a great variety of public transport modes. We do not aim to glorify readers, compare them to people doing other things (playing games on smartphones, etc.), or give the message “Everybody should read!” with Istanbul Okurken. We are not romantics; we’re just interested in people who read during their time spent in public transport, and we photograph them.

Courtesy of İstanbul Okurken

Which books do Istanbulites prefer to read the most?
We don’t have enough data to produce significant statistics yet. However, in terms of genre preference, 75 out of 100 books we photographed were fiction novels, and the rest was nonfiction. Out of these 100 books, 57 of them were translated from their original language to Turkish, 39 of them were written in Turkish and four of them were in their original language other than Turkish. Having said that, we have already come up with Kuyucaklı Yusuf from Sabahattin Ali, Just Kids from Patti Smith and The Alchemist from Paulo Coelho more than a couple of times.

What's the most interesting thing that's happened during a photoshoot?
Once an older man who saw us in the metro photographing some readers stopped us and asked if we were taking the photographs of book readers; we responded positively. Thereupon he took out a tiny note paper from his pocket and said, "See, I’m reading as well." Then he started reading some personal notes on it, such as “Buy a comb” and “Pay a visit to your mom.” That was really entertaining, and that’s why we decided to take his photos and put them on the website.

Courtesy of İstanbul Okurken

Are you planning to expand the project to different cities? If so, which ones?
Istanbul Okurken is actually a city project. That’s why we’d really like to expand this to different cities and see the reading process in transportation there with their own dynamics. We were contacted by some people who live in Ankara and Izmir so far, and if we can manage to establish a well-designed expansion system, we’ll be more than happy to continue this project in the cities that we receive requests from.

What's one thing you wouldn’t want to change in Istanbul?
Based on the small survey we ran on our Facebook page, the most comfortable transportation system in Istanbul is the ferry. That’s also [a place where] we find [it] convenient to read and wouldn’t like to see it change.

Courtesy of İstanbul Okurken

What's a perfect Saturday for you?
We love socializing at home. That means we prefer a calm weekend that we spend at home with a rich breakfast and [a lot of] rest.

What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who visits Istanbul?
We think they should go for a walk on Istiklal Street, where they can find many bookstores which are homes to many foreign books about Istanbul and Turkey.

By Onur Varol

One of those kids, with a twist. He reads, he sees, he listens; he writes about what he reads, sees and listens. Longtime secret savvy, now a complete Savoteur.