LAHORE: Notwithstanding the technological advancements and easily accessible online sources of information and knowledge, a book (hard copy) continues to have a charm of its own. This can be borne out by the recent emergence of modern bookstores which offer titles on a myriad of subjects.

The latest trends in history and literature, geopolitical dynamics, the rise of radicalism and militancy, economic issues and the fact that the world is spinning out of control are some of the themes on which tomes have been written by scholars, academics, researchers, journalists and former state functionaries in the last decade or so.

In our country, many people are of the view that the book industry has resurged in recent times after a period of ‘downturn’ in the business. In fact, the old and newly-published books seem to have flooded the market and have reasonable clientele too.

This is the impression one gets while visiting the Lahore International Book Fair (LIBF) which is being held these days at Johar Town’s Expo Center. An annual feature for the last many years, the five-day event houses publishing ventures which offer discounts from 20 to 50pc on hundreds of titles covering the domains of the English language and literature, current affairs, history, philosophy, psychology, medicine and Islamic Studies. Some well-known publishers have even displayed books and magazines at “special prices” – up to 70 to 80pc discounts.

New translations of the Holy Quran, books on the life of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) and other Islamic literature adorn the stalls. Similarly, one can find many people interested in reference books such as dictionaries and encyclopaedia which are available at ‘significantly’ reduced prices.

Some people, especially students, complain about marginal discounts on books of their interest and dictionaries. Most publishers, however, dispel the impression and claim that they offer the maximum possible discount. It is difficult to offer equal discount on all books, they contend, as they have to keep in mind the ever increasing cost of printing, transportation and miscellaneous expenditure.

As for the impression that there has been drop in the sale of books over the years because of various factors, a publishing house manager says it’s a misconception. “The mushroom growth of educational institutions in the city has given a boost to the publishing concerns like ours. These institutions are always interested in our books on language and literature for their libraries and classroom activities.”

There are customers for other books as well and people who wait for the annual book fair to avail themselves of maximum discounts, he says.

“There is no doubt that a good book or reading material is just a click away but a printed book has no substitute. For many people, especially old-timers, there is still no pleasure more edifying than the reading in book form. A good book transports a reader to the world created by the author,” says a teacher.

According to him, modern gadgets may make a book readily available but one must remember that they can’t replace the original book that one can read in a convenient and leisurely manner. There is no dearth of online reference books such as dictionaries and tools which are at best an ‘aid’ to learning. “What students today miss is the essential exercise of looking up the words in a printed dictionary – an activity that helps one build a decent vocabulary not by merely memorising meanings but through the proper study of words,” he says.

Saturday, the third day of the book fair, saw a good number of people flock to the venue. Students of various institutions spent their holiday exploring the world of books and pleasant weather and addition of food court added to the fun.

Sharing his opinion, IT professional Kamran Khan said: “A book fair is like a breath of fresh air for an avid reader. One can’t find such a large stock of books on almost every subject one can think of under one roof. One doesn’t necessarily need to buy too many books; there is ample opportunity to browse titles of one’s choice and equip oneself with information. The fact that the festival of books coincides with an obvious scent of spring in the air makes it all the more refreshing.”

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2017