By Zeeshan Gull
Before the printing press was invented in 1440, access to books was a luxury and only the affluent or scholars could afford them. The expansion of the printing press throughout the globe, from a single shop in Mainz, Germany, became a significant driver that introduced the world to mass communication through print media, such as cloth and paper. Today, digital technology leads a similar revolution: introducing the world to addictive social media which cuts across time faster than paperbacks once did.
Over the years, people’s reading habits have drastically changed. Extensive use of the Internet and social media has affected billions of people and their daily schedules have become busier, reducing the time available to read books. Books have also become more expensive, yet another demotivating factor for those wanting to buy and own books and a significant challenge to those wanting to increase readership. But there is a way to promote reading once again in the digital age, and that is through book sales, particularly book sales that offer an affordable variety of books, providing easy access to hundreds of books at low costs. Imagine having all the J.K. Rowling, Kamila Shamsie, and James Baldwin titles that one could want to read. In Pakistan, there is a significant need for book sales.
One such instance is the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale which is well-known for their large-scale, popular book sale events around the world. This year, the book sale came to our very own red-bricked Lahore, running from April 19 to 29 at the Lahore Expo Centre. It is open to the general public and will run for eleven days. The best part? The venue is open 24 hours, non-stop, throughout the event with free entry, giving book lovers and those with busy schedules unlimited access to more than a million books. Books of all genres are available, from children’s books to architecture books to business books and more. The books offered at the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale are original books at discounted prices which is 50% – 90% off the recommended retail prices.
According to UNESCO, the literacy rate in Pakistan among those aged 15 years and older has steadily increased in recent years, from nearly 25% in 1980 to almost 60% in 2018. This is certainly a major, positive change in the right direction for the country. Book sales, such as the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale, then come as phenomenal opportunities to us to increase access to literature of all kinds as well as supplement what should be a lifelong education.
Leaders around the world have always talked about the role reading has played in their success, from Elon Musk, Bill Gates to Nicola Sturgeon. And certainly, books play a critical role in building empathy, introducing one to new ways of thinking, and inviting one to think in different languages. The vacant mind is nudged, challenged to solve complexities in an alternate way, and prompted to envision alien cultures and ways of living thousands of miles away; in this way, books become empathetic, intelligent friends who spur us onwards to lifelong growth.