Love of books still alive
By Imran Naeem Ahmad
ISLAMABAD: The notion that people’s romance for reading is fast dying seems off the mark considering the number of people frequenting bookshops seeking a good read.
Be it the shops that sell new books or used book stores, all are doing good business, which shows that people’s interest in reading is alive. Malik Ejaz, who has been an old book dealer for three decades, endorses this fact.
He points out that there was never a downward trend in reading. “For as long as I have been in this business, customers of all age groups used to come to my shop to buy books in the years past and still do so today.”
Malik cannot imagine that a time will ever come when people would stop reading books. “When the Internet arrived on the scene, everyone feared that our business would be affected but that didn’t happen,” he remarked. “In fact more people are turning up to buy books than ever before,” he said.
The old bookshops across town are frequently visited by people because of the comparatively lower priced books on offer and the chance of finding a rare title. “Who knows when you might strike gold,” says 39-year-old Hameed Tirmizi, who has regularly visited these shops since his school days.
“Archie comics and Enid Blyton books used to be hot items back then and we used to buy them and exchange them with classmates after reading them,” recalled Hameed. “Those were the 80s but now their prices have gone up drastically,” he says. Yet Malik refuses to accept that prices are high and refers to the Indian market, which is producing books that are more reasonably priced than the original editions published in England or the United States.
“India has been able to attract all big publishers because the paper, printing and labour are all quite cheap there and hence prices are low,” he says, adding that Pakistani readers had been benefiting in turn.
He quickly pulls out from the shelf, Kiran Desai’s prize-winning book ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ and claims its original price was Rs 770 but that its Indian version was being sold for Rs 595. “We are passing on the benefit to our readers,” he says.
Indeed the market is loaded with books published in India, but the question remains: from where do these titles and others end up on shelves of the old books shops? One of the main source are diplomats, who live in Islamabad for a specified period and then sell their belongings before being transferred. No wonder most of the titles are in mint condition. Among the tonnes of books that adorn Malik’s shop’s shelves, English literature, modern fiction and self-improvement are the best selling. But that does not mean that President General Pervez Musharraf’s book ‘In the Line of Fire’ did not sell well. Since its launch in September, Malik has sold 136 copies.
For Malik Ejaz and his colleagues, the business is thriving and he is confident that it will stay that way. “I say this because people do genuinely love to read,” he states confidently.