KARACHI: For the first time since its inception in 2005, self-publishers will exhibit their work at the Karachi International Book Fair, which is set to kick off from December 6.
The Pakistan Publishers and Book Sellers Association, the organisers of the five-day event, said on Tuesday that the move is meant to encourage writers who find it difficult to obtain publicity or publishers for their work. The self-published authors can rent a stall for all five days of the fair for a mere Rs5,000.
“It’s a sad reality that we haven’t been able to develop a steady supply of authors,” said the association’s chairperson Aziz Khalid, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday. “This has made the job of publishers all the more difficult as it is risky to publish unknown authors.”
This year’s fair will feature over 180 local and international publishing houses at the Expo Centre. The organisers are expecting more than 300,000 visitors – an increase in number as compared with last year’s event.
Khalid reiterated the industry’s longstanding demand that the government set up an institution along the lines of the National Book Trust of India, which publishes the work of aspiring authors for free. “This is a brilliant idea: the government’s initial support [helps authors] bring out new work and then the private sector steps in if sales pick up.”
The association’s chairperson added that the event restores the publishing industry’s and booksellers’ confidence as the number of participants has been increasing over the years. “We started with just 40 stalls in a single hall. Now the exhibition has spread to three halls with over 300 stalls.”
The fair was conceived over seven years ago after Pakistani publishers repeatedly faced embarrassment in similar events held abroad, said Khalid. “We come from such a big country. Yet we didn’t have much to showcase.” He added the event shows Karachi has much more to offer than just violence.
According to the association, some positive signs have emerged in recent years despite the downfall of book-reading culture. “We have noticed a growing interest of young mothers in reading books. They are taking their children to bookstores and are encouraging them to buy more.”
The trends are, however, far from ideal. “Almost 85 percent of the published work comprises textbooks. Out of the remaining 15 percent, most of the books have religious material,” said Khalid. The publishers claim that even the textbooks published in Pakistan are written by foreign authors. Most books for engineering and medicine published in the country are penned by Indian authors.
The book fair’s convener, Owais Mirza Jamil, said that event also helps alleviate fears that reading books in print is no longer popular in this digital era.
“Publishers from India, the US, Iran, Singapore, Dubai and other countries are participating. The largest international participation is from India from where 21 bookings have been made.” Unfortunately, National Book Trust of India’s representatives will not be flying across the borders as they failed to obtain visas.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2012.