Intolerance is the biggest ill facing our society today and the surest antidote are books, said Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif addressing the inauguration ceremony of the 26th Lahore International Book Fair held here at the Lahore Expo Centre on Friday. “No one makes money selling books here” said Lahore International Book Fair Trust (LIBFT) general secretary Najam Sethi at the ceremony. Calling it a public service, Sethi said the aim of such book fairs was to promote the habit of reading.
Appreciating the theme of the Fair – Education for all; Books for Peace – the CM said the country could progress by promoting such themes. “Through education we can eradicate the vices in our society,” he said.
The CM inaugurated the Fair by cutting a cake and later announced a grant of Rs2 million for the LIBFT.
With hopes of expanding the Fair in the coming years, Sethi said there was a need to focus on ‘knowledge based’ education.
Speaking with The Express Tribune, LIBFT chairman Zubair Saeed said that on Friday they had received a notification from the Interior Ministry granting a ten day visa to 20 out of the 24 Indian publishers who had booked stalls at the Fair. He said three of them had arrived on Friday and six more were expected on Saturday to participate in the Fair. Saeed thanked the chief minister for the grant and hoped that the previous years’ grant of Rs0.5 million would also be given to them.
The 26th LIBF touted to be the largest in the events’ history with 240 stalls. Book sellers and publishers from Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore are represented along with publishers from India, the US, the UK and Germany, educational institutes including the University of Central Punjab, the University of Lahore, Forman Christian College, the Superior Group of Colleges and PAK AIMS.
‘I think of the LIBF as more of an education fair, said Firdevs Dinc, the vice principal of the Pak-Turk International School Girls Campus. Dinc, a Turkish national who has been in Pakistan for almost six years, said interaction between book publishers and educational institutes was vital. Pak-Turk School students were holding a science fair at more than 10 stalls. Dinc said the aim was to promote co-curricular activities among students besides reading.
Owner of the Book Club, Atif Niazi, said he hoped to gain publicity for his business through the Fair. “Our business is mobile,” said Niazi explaining that they had not established an outlet and ‘books were sold on wheels’. Started two years back, the Book Club, which deals in used books, is participating in the LIBF for the first time. Niazi said organisers need to publicise the event better.
“Last year we missed the chance be part of the event as we found out about it too late,” he said adding “this time we were in constant contact with the organisers.”
Department of Libraries head Chaudhary Mohammad Nazeer blamed the lack of facilities in libraries for the decreasing trend of reading. Nazeer, who was buying books for the National Library in Islamabad, said with students relying on just textbooks for learning, the reading habit was fast dying. Nazeer said local books were not subsidised and were expensive. “Foreign books are even more expensive so they can only be accessed through libraries,” he added.
Multi-line Books chief executive Zubair Khalid said they had been participating in the exhibition for several years. Established in 1988, Multi-line books had booked 12 stalls displaying books ranging from Rs100 to Rs200,000. Khalid said they were the official distributors of the Indian publishers, Anmol. “The Indian market is very large,” he said adding that books printed in India were affordable. “People come here for lower prices. We have to facilitate them.” he added.
Coming back to the LIBF for the fifth year, Liberty Books senior manager Francis DeSouza said that book fairs were very beneficial for the book sellers and readers. Liberty Books had booked 16 stalls displaying books on a wide variety of topics. “Since Liberty Books does not have an outlet in Lahore, the LIBF allows us to interact with book readers and buyers,” DeSouza said. DeSouza held the view that reading had increased over the years.
“No matter how much we read on the internet, a person will always come back to a book,” said Farooq Mughal, executive assistant at Newsweek Pakistan. Newsweek Pakistan is participating in the Fair for the first time. Mughal hoped book fairs would encourage people to read. Mughal, however, felt that the Fair needed to be closer to the city centre, “it would do better if the location were more accessible,” he said.
For the second time the LIBF is being held at the Expo Centre. Saeed said the fair was receiving only ‘planned visitors’. “Previously fairs were held at Fortress Stadium and there were a large number of walk-in visitors.” However, he added, that the Expo Centre would eventually be accessible to all people with the city continuously growing towards it.
The LIBF will host more than 1,500 children at an art competition to be held on Saturday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Punjab Textbook Board. The competition would start at 10am and continue till 4pm.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2012.