Despite the constant demand for books of all kinds, they are sadly not published, said Khalid Aziz, chairman of the Pakistan Booksellers and Publishers Association, which annually hosts the Karachi International Book Fair (KIBF) at the Expo. Center since 2005.
When asked if there was a possibility this year’s KIBF was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aziz, who also owns publisher Urdu Academy Sindh, told The News that his association had booked the Exhibition Center from December 5 to 9, but they might cancel the event if the situation wasn’t favorable.
Aziz said, the COVID-19 situation in October will be a determining factor for this year’s KIBF. He said his association should see if the government allows them to hold multi-day events and whether organizers can ensure compliance with standard operating procedures (SOPs) across the program.
He also said that if they could not hold a book fair which is indeed one of the city’s grandest annual cultural activities, next year it will be held, which they have also booked the Expo Center for five days.
Aziz shared how KIBF has become Pakistan’s premier academic and cultural event, saying that its success has resulted in major book fair events in other cities in the country.
He said, the book sales that KIBF achieved in just five days were the same as what usually happened in six to seven months. He said publishers and booksellers from all over Pakistan attended KIBF, where they recorded a very large sale.
In a KIBF, recalled Aziz, a publisher from Lahore distributed sweets on the last day of the book fair to celebrate the purchase order worth Rs14 million he got during the event.
Aziz also explained about the participation of foreign organizations in KIBF: a German company once rented one of the three Expo Center halls where the event was taking place and asked the organizers to provide a kiosk there to publishers and booksellers who couldn’t. I can’t afford the rent.
For the 2007 KIBF, said Aziz, they had even held talks with Frankfurter Buchmesse (Frankfurt Book Fair) to bring international publishers to Karachi, but the latter withdrew after the Karsaz tragedy, while Srinagar University was invited to one of the exhibitions and all their books were sold. .
Holding KIBF is not a smooth road for Aziz and his associates. Even after the show’s successful years, they had to fight the authorities regarding rents and other matters. He said the rent for a three-by-three-square-meter kiosk at the book fair was Rs.60,000, but the Exhibition Center authorities wanted them to charge Rs100,000 for the stall size.
He also has many stories to tell about various state literary and academic bodies that are unwilling to pay rent despite receiving government funding. When the first KIBF took place, he recalls, Dr Hameeda Khuhro was Sindh’s education minister. He said he congratulated him on holding a major book fair but complained there was no Sindhi bookstore, to which he replied that his association had invited the Sindhi Adabi Council, the Sindhi Language Authority and others, but they wanted concessions and benefits, which the association was unable to provide them with. .
Aziz said he was annoyed by this and promised that if the book fair were to be held next year, he would make sure all the organizations participated. “Next year, they will all not only come but also pay the full rent.”
He said his association is now offering free space to organizations that cannot pay rent because they want to ensure books are in all Pakistani languages at book fairs. He recalled that once they invited the government agency for Pashto literature to attend the KIBF, but those headed for it demanded round-trip airfare as well as accommodation in five-star hotels, which of course didn’t allow for the booksellers association. to provide.
He also remembers when Makhdoom Amin Fahim was minister of commerce, saying that the Expo Center had drastically increased the rental price for the event and that Fahim had to be approached for intervention, after which the rental price was reduced by Rs1.5 million.
The Urdu Academy Sindh is a book publisher developed by the Sindh Jamshoro Textbook Council. When asked why text books are not printed on good quality paper, Aziz said they are not allowed to publish government textbooks on imported high-quality paper, while local newspapers are substandard.
He regretted that the government had increased import duties on imported paper, which made books expensive. He recalled that once the federal education minister Jehangir Ashraf Qazi had promised to solve the problems in the next budget, but when the time came to present that budget, the government had changed.
Book here to stay
Disagreeing with the perception of certain segments of society that books are becoming obsolete due to e-books and the decline in reading habits in general, Aziz said books are in great demand, and sales at KIBF are proof of this.
He is of the view that for the demand for certain types of books, there is little or no supply. He cited children’s books in Pakistani regional languages. He said there was a huge demand for such books but they were not written or published.
He also said that the proliferation of private schools has turned out to be a blessing for the publishing industry because these educational institutions tend to maintain libraries so that they have to buy books in large quantities.
On the other hand, he regretted, many public schools in remote Sindh that only had school facades, while inside were poultry and livestock, not students.