“The first time I read an excellent book, it is to me just as if I had gained a new friend. When I read over a book I have perused before, it resembles the meeting with an old one.” – Oliver Goldsmith
It is a general perception that the habit of reading books is on a decline especially among the youth. The steep cost of books is a big issue in Pakitsan. In families where it is difficult to provide three square meals a day, buying books is considered an unnecessary luxury.
Growing use of the Internet, smartphones and latest gadgets has also played a big role in luring children away from the written word.
However, to give credit where it is due, one must applaud the efforts of National Book Foundation which is doing its utmost to promote book culture and book reading habit among the general public in Pakistan.
As part of its efforts for the above-mentioned cause, the NBF ‘Kitab Mela’ 2017 is underway at the Pak-China Centre in Islamabad and what a treat it is for book lovers from all walks of life.
The three-day book festival is set to feature over 250 book stalls selling books at discounted rates, poetry recitation, launch ceremonies of new books, workshops, mobile library, peace and human rights conference, a seminar on modern poems, fictions and a ghazal night.
I visited the Kitab Mela on its inauguration day with my family and had a great time browsing through new and old books. It was heartening to see hundreds of people thronging the Pak-China Centre with excited children in tow.
Colourful stalls had been set up by various educational institutions. Participation of renowned intellectual, literary and TV personalities, educationists, writers, poets, famous artists and students of educational institutions added charm and glitz to the three day festival.
But what I really wanted to thank the National Book Foundation is for their amazing scheme in which you can get become a member of NBF Reader’s Club made for just Rs110. (about $1)
For this membership card, you need a copy of your computerized National ID Card and a passport size photograph. For children under 18 years, their B-form would suffice. Fill some forms, have a photograph taken and viola you are ready to embark on a book shopping spree.
With NBF membership card, you can buy brand new books at 50% discount…yes, you read that right… you can buy books at exactly half the retail price from NBF’s partner bookstores. Each family member can have a card made in her or his name so everyone can shop for books to his heart’s content.
To be very honest, I have haunted old book shops all my life. I love reading books but the steep cost of new books has always acted as a constraint. Many of the books that I own are in a battered, beaten and bruised state not only because they have been bought second hand but also because I have read and re-read them a gazillion times.
However, since the launch of NBF scheme, I have purchased many new Urdu and English books without feeling guilty. One of my favourite bookstores to visit has been Darrusalam from where I have been able to buy some amazing Islamic books and encyclopedias for myself and my children which initially had seemed a little out of reach.
If you love reading books, or you are a student or a school administrator and you did not know about this scheme, then you have been missing out on an incredible opportunity. But it is not too late. The membership scheme, for the time being, will continue till 31st May, 2017.
It is my fervent hope that it will continue beyond this date too because parents, schools, students and book lovers can take immense benefit from this initiative.
National Book Foundation has already inaugurated ‘Shehr-e-Kitab’ (The City of Books)in F-7 Markaz Islamabad with 28 bookshops under one roof where bibliophiles can purchase books at discounted prices. A large collection of Urdu and English classics and contemporary fiction can be found at NBF bookshops and its partner bookstores.
If you live in, or near, Islamabad then do take advantage of the National Book Foundation Kitab Mela 2017. Visit the Pak-China Centre with your children or students and inculcate in them a love for books. It is the greatest gift we can give to our next generation.