“On the one hand we have schools being destroyed but on the other there are also mothers bringing their children to the book fair to buy them books,” said chairman of the Pakistan Publishers & Booklovers Association central committee, Aziz Khalid, at a press conference ahead of the ninth Karachi International Book Fair (KIBF) on Tuesday.
“KIBF has for the past nine years been showing to the world that we are peace lovers, book lovers and that we care about education. It has been creating a soft image of Pakistan for the rest of the world,” he added.
The book fair organised by the Pakistan Publishers & Booklovers Association in collaboration with the National Book Foundation will be held from Dec 5 to 9 in three halls of the Karachi Expo Centre. “The fair will be inaugurated by Sindh Senior Minister for Education and Literacy Nisar Khuhro and will remain open for the general public from 10am to 9pm on all the five days,” briefed the convener of the fair, Owais Mirza Jamil.
“There will be places for new authors to introduce their books to readers while also networking with publishers. There will be several book launches, and activities planned for children, too,” he said, adding that booking for stalls became tight some one month back and they were completely booked some 15 days ago. Textbook boards and educational institutions get complementary stalls, of course.
“There are 300 stalls in the three expo centre halls but next time we will try booking more halls in order to be able to offer more halls. There is also international participation in the fair from the UK, the US, Iran, Thailand, Malaysia and India. And we are expecting over 400,000 visitors this year,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Khalid returned to the rostrum to inform the media that besides showcasing educational books, the KIBF would also offer books in different regional languages published locally. “There will be Sindhi books published by the Sindhi Adabi Board and Pushto books published by the Pushto Academy along with law books, medical books, children’s books and religious books,” he said.
“Last year the visiting Indian publishers also brought with them several Sindhi books published there, which were sold out almost immediately,” he said.
In reply to a question about visas for the Indian publishers coming to the book fair, he said: “Well, there are supposed to be 20 Indian publishers coming here this time but this works on a reciprocal basis. Last year only two Pakistani publishers got visas to enter the Dehli Book Exhibition, too,” he said.
About the rising cost of books, Mr Khalid said it was due to the high costs of paper. “We produce little paper locally and there is a heavy duty on imported paper. If we cannot fulfil the paper requirement of the country, and education is to be spread here, our government needs to rethink its policy on paper imports,” he said.
Malahat Kaleem of the Library Association of Pakistan, who was also attending the press conference, urged the media to raise the issue of making books printing easy in Pakistan. “There are foreign publishers investing in India. They publish their books there as the paper is cheaper there just like the labour. We in Pakistan are losing out in this area,” she said.
KIBF deputy convener Waqar Matin Khan and Liberty Books director Saleem Hussain were also present.