LAHORE: While Lahore sizzled in the heatwave that has gripped the whole region, the Lahore International Book Fair (LIBF) showed some persistence by holding its 35th edition at the Expo Centre. The four-day fair being held after a two years hiatus due to Covid-19 concluded on Sunday.

The effect of the extreme weather conditions was obvious as there was less number of stalls as well the visitors compared to the previous editions of the fair that suffered because of the Covid-19 effects like everything else.

Ayyaz Ahmed of Sang-i-Meel publishers, which usually has the biggest stall at the LIBF, agreed that there was less number of bookstalls with equally less flow of buyers. He said there could be various causes, including the current heatwave in Lahore. “Another reason is that another book fair was held at the Expo Centre about two months back that had put the readers off,” he said.

“The sale and the visitors were not much on the first three days. However, they picked up pace on Sunday, the last day of the fair,” said Kamran Haider, holding one of the cash counters at Readings, probably holding the biggest stall of the fair, catering to mostly readers of English language books. Talking about the possible reasons, he added the festival was usually held in February every year and weather conditions in May had no match with those of February.

“Besides the timing, exams of schoolchildren are going on these days which are also one of the factors for low turnout at the book fair,” said Haider.

Gaggan Shahid of the Jhelum Book Corner, one of the famous bookstalls with the growing number of bestselling authors, had a different view. He expressed satisfaction with the response of the readers and the sale of books. Comparing the sale with that of the last book fair in which he also participated, he didn’t find much difference. However, he added, a book fair being held in May could not be compared with the one being held in February when weather conditions are best for any outdoor activity.

Nazeer Bhatti, the coordinator of the LIBF, said this year the fair was held in May due to the delay in the time slot, adding that it would be held on its usual schedule in February next year. The LIBF wanted to keep the readers, publishers and booksellers engaged, that’s why it persisted with holding the fair despite the delay and unfavourable weather conditions.

The fair usually used to have 250 stalls in its previous editions. Talking about the number of stalls this year, Bhatti said: “There are about 180 stalls this year and the figure is not bad”. About the cost of the stalls, he said there was no extraordinary hike but just a general minimum increase, refuting some social media posts that the LIBF had raised the cost considerably.

A rare stall this time over was of a publisher from Quetta, Gosha-e-Adab. It had books on the history and culture of Balochistan.

Daniyal Bukhari, the owner of the stall, said, “It’s first time that we are participating in the book fair. We publish books on Balochistan”. He said the publishing house had been in the business since 1960.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2022

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