Schoolgirls browse through Urdu titles while (right) schoolboys walk off with newly bought books at the KIBF on Thursday.—White Star
Schoolgirls browse through Urdu titles while (right) schoolboys walk off with newly bought books at the KIBF on Thursday.—White Star

KARACHI: Apart from the stalls with extensive choice of books spread over the three halls with other activities at the Karachi Expo Centre on Thursday, the opening day of the five-day 15th Karachi International Book Fair, the image that would really stay with one until the next such big book fair comes to town was of a mother and her two daughters wheeling a big gray suitcase that they had brought with them to carry the books they bought.

Ms Atif said that the suitcase was her idea. “Between myself and my daughters Ayesha and Barira, there are going to be lots and lots of books and it will be easier to put all our purchases in the suitcase instead of carrying so many shopping bags,” she said.

Another customer, Hina Waqar, who was there with her daughter Maria, didn’t mind the shopping bags. “I am not here just to shop for books for myself but for my children as well as grandchildren,” said Ms Waqar. “Since books are very expensive these days and we in our family are voracious readers, I have no issues buying pirated books. And I have come across several here that are definitely copies judging from their quality and price. I bought four books for the price of one and I didn’t feel too guilty about it since little children can be rough in handling books. They scribble in books and even tear pages out of them which would have really bothered me had I bought very expensive books. I don’t care whether I buy them original or pirated as long as they read,” she said.

There were many schools visiting too. Farzana Umar Farooq, Dua Mohammad Sabir and Ayesha Shaukat from Shaheen Public Secondary School were glad to be allowed to break away from their group. “It gives us the freedom to browse,” said Farzana.

Schoolgirls browse through Urdu titles while (right) schoolboys walk off with newly bought books at the KIBF on Thursday.—White Star
Schoolgirls browse through Urdu titles while (right) schoolboys walk off with newly bought books at the KIBF on Thursday.—White Star

“Our sir has asked us all to meet at the gate at 3pm. So we have plenty of time to look around,” said Ayesha.

‘People are mostly interested in fiction or self-help books’

Hall 2 was a big favourite with children as it housed the most children’s publishers. At the Saathi Magazine stall, a publisher of monthly children’s digests, they had made separate packets of all the issues of different years. Only the year 2019 had one issue missing. “Yes, there is the December issue missing in the pack but after we receive it from the press tonight, it will be complete,” said the publisher, Abdul Rehman Momin.

Hall 1, meanwhile, had religious publishers mostly. The clear big Islamic fonts used in the exquisite Holy Quran volumes were appreciated by many at the Qudratullah & Co, Lahore, stall. The publishers despite hailing from Lahore also had a shop at Urdu Bazaar in Karachi.

Compared to previous years, there was a huge variety of religious books. “There are many customers looking to buy religious books,” said Mohammad Sarfaraz at Gaba Educational Books.

At Darussalam Publishers there were also translations of religious books. Zainab Zahid, a young mother, was happy to find several informative books for her children there. “It’s not just religious books, there are also books on science here,” she said.

Hall 3 had the bigger, more known publishers such as Oxford, Paramount, Liberty Books and Kitab Mahal.

Mahnoor Kamani, a young representative at the Liberty Books stall, said that people were mostly interested in fiction or self-help books. “They know what they want and come looking for specific titles such as Amari Soul’s Reflections of a Man,” she said. “Yes, there are some people complaining about the cost of certain genres such as children’s books. But still the response has been great as people come to us for quality.”

The book fair, to continue till Monday, Nov 9, will be open from 10am to 9pm each day. Entry is free.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2019