WHILE we lament the lack of libraries across the country, I believe there is a serious print culture crisis. Recently, I embarked on a journey from Faizabad to Lahore, and, for my reading pleasure, I sought to purchase a copy of a newspaper. To my dismay, I found no bookstall near the bus stop on either side of the road.
With half-an-hour left for departure, I asked around to find a newspaper. I was directed to a single hawker opposite the bus terminal, but he was not present at the time, leaving me without any reading material for my trip.
I reminisced about the days when bookstalls and newspaper vendors were a common sight at bus stops and railway stations. It was heartening to see multiple options available, catering to diverse literary tastes. For instance, during my college years in the 1990s, while travelling to my hometown Nankana Sahib from Lahore, I fondly remember browsing through various bookstalls on railway station platforms.
I could easily find inexpensive editions of literary gems featuring works by acclaimed authors, such as Krishan Chander, Manto, Prem Chand, and others. Those journeys provided me not only with engaging reads, but also nurtured a sense of appreciation for the print culture.
Unfortunately, the current scenario appears to tell a different story; we today see a decline of print culture in our daily lives. While the digital world brings undeniable convenience and accessibility, we must not overlook the value of preserving and promoting print media. There is a unique charm and gratification in flipping through the pages of a physical book or newspaper that a digital screen cannot replicate.
As we step into the era of the digital world, I believe it is crucial to strike a balance between the convenience of technology and the richness of print culture. Encouraging the presence of bookstalls and newspaper vendors at public places, like bus stops and railway stations, can help revitalise this fading tradition. Moreover, initiatives to promote reading and the availability of diverse literary materials should be actively pursued.
Policymakers and people alike should support and revive the print culture. Let us ensure that future generations experience the joy of browsing through bookstalls, discovering literary treasures, and relishing the touch and feel of physical books and newspapers.
Published in Dawn, September 22th, 2023