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12 January, 2017 00:00 00 AM
Book Story
Book Story

Sheikh Iraj

Books help us to acquire knowledge and develop ourselves and our communities. Books play a vital part in positively changing the way we think, see, feel and even how we interact with each other. Different scientific studies clearly indicate that those who read books tend to be smarter or more intellectually advanced than those who don’t. Books give us a peace of mind, help us to relax and even fight depression. Thanks to technological advancement today, besides printed books, other reading media such as e-books or online books are available to us. However, in our country, the popularity of paper books is increasing ever so more. To make books more popular, different public and private organisations arrange a number of book fairs in different parts of the country throughout the year. The Ekushey Book Fair at Bangla Academy in February, for example, is the most popular among book lovers. This week, Y&I spoke with some publishers, bookstore owners, young readers, teachers and guardians about the relevance of printed books these days.
Jubayer Islam Bhuiyan, Student

I am studying for HSC exams at Dhaka College. Since my childhood, reading books has been my hobby. I enjoy it very much. I grew up reading classics like Feluda, Kakababu, Byomkesh Bakshi and many more. They were my heroes. When I stepped into adolescence, Himu and Misir Ali were my favourites. Books gave me immense pleasure. They made me laugh and cry. I never felt alone or depressed when I had a new book on my shelf. However, things have changed. Most of the books nowadays are printed in offset papers. The covers are nice and attractive, but the books cost almost double. Coming from a middle-class family, it is tough for me to spend so much on books. Reading books has become a luxury now. And yes, I do miss reading books.

Jamiul Adnan, Student

I am studying Public Administration at the University of Dhaka. We now live in the era of electronic books (e-books). E-books have the obvious advantage of being lightweight, portable and easy to manage. With the arrival of phone tablets such as Kindle, iPad, etc, carrying books have become easier. As for paper books, there is something about them which still attract book lovers like us. The scent of a book, the texture of the pages, the hard binding, flipping over to the next page or fanning through the pages _ there is nothing like the feeling of reading through a book! Printed books will never go out of fashion, as long as there are book fairs where book lovers like me can go.

Fazley-Rabbi Moon, Graduate

Personally, I don’t like reading on screen. I miss the taste, smell, and feel of a real book. Overall, I think there are a lot more people out there who prefer paper books to virtual ones. Printed books help me to create my own images of the characters in the book. When I am reading a paper book, I always want to finish it.  I will not watch TV or use the internet at home as long I have not finished that book. I cannot say the same thing about e-books or online reading. I recently graduated from the Education Physiology Department of Dhaka University. I have seen public university students read more books than those in their curricula. I don’t know, maybe public university students get more free time. I have always seen our teachers inspiring students to read more books. I have an uncle who is a famous writer. He always advises me to read big fat books. He believes reading books is the best way to improve your thinking and the level of concentration.  

Suhita Sultana, Deputy Director, National Book Centre  

We work with books, our main goal is to make the new generation more interested in reading books. The government has taken initiatives to make that happen. We distribute books and money to different private libraries throughout the country. Nowadays, we are organising more book fairs, seminars and other programmes to promote paper books. We are going to organise eight book fairs this year in cities like Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Barisal, Khulna, Mymensingh and Cox’s Bazar. The fairs will be for 7 to 10 days. On also we organise book fairs on different national holidays. For example, we recently organised a ‘Bijoy Book Fair’ at Uttara for our Victory Day. Also on the birth anniversary of Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman we organise a book fair in Tungipara. Regarding e-books, we have plans to work with that medium in the future.  

Mahrukh Mohiuddin, Director Assistant, University Press Limited

I personally believe that in our country, we, the book industry collectively, have failed to make paper books more popular. We are not able to organise more activities that are book related. For example, there are not that many book launches. The libraries always have a big part to play when it comes to popularising printed books. However, we are not giving that much of an importance to library-based community development. There is another fact which we cannot deny, that is we are going through a transition period. We are going through such a phrase where two separate generations are sticking to their likings.  For example, we grew up reading printed books, you can say we have a romanticism about the whole thing. I read both e-books and paper books, but I have to admit I have a soft corner for paper books. Now I can’t expect the new generation to like printed books like we do. We have published some e-books through Kindle. In future, we have plans to work more with e-books, but we would like to give more priority to paper books. From the professional publisher’s point of view, I don’t know if our publishers are that professional yet. We always try to make sure the writers get royalties. We want to make sure that, through our service, the writer, reader and the publisher are equally benefitted.
 
Nafe Nazrul, Publisher, Shapavna   

Today, many book fairs are being organised throughout the country. I started my publishing business about one-and-a-half years ago. Now after entering the publishing business, I came to realise something very positive about printed books. Nowadays people just don’t buy books looking at the cover. People give priority to the writer’s fame, they read some pages and they consider the quality of the illustrations, then they decide whether to buy the book or not. That shows people are more interested in buying books. In terms of money, we reinvest whatever return we get, so it’s really hard to say about the profit. We already have some e-books and have plans to work more with this medium in the future. In terms of overall book sale, online bookselling and home delivery services are working like magic.

Jyotinmoy Sen, Senior Teacher, Mirpur Siddhanta High School

If you don’t put books in front of children they are not going to read them. I teach Bangla and I always recommend that my students read different storybooks outside their course syllabus. The truth is today’s generation is not into books the way our generation was. If you ask them to read a certain book, they will watch the movie adaptation of that story instead. I believe modernisation of libraries can really encourage the youth to read more. I watch my students always chatting on one social media or other, or watching movies. If we modernise our libraries, then I believe they would like to spend more time there. I want my students to read _ doesn’t matter if they are reading paper books or something on the internet. As a parent, I ask my daughters to read the books I have at home. But what can you do if they don’t want to?

Sheikh Nahid Neazy, Associate Professor Department of English, Stamford University Bangladesh

Reading is a great habit, although we don’t have enough time to read books. Nowadays people are more interested in social media. At present, the young generation is found spending a huge amount of time on social media sites. They have an aversion to reading books. Once upon a time, reading books was considered to be a source of pleasure. Many students were found addicted to reading. They used to read various types of books outside the syllabus. But at present, very few students are interested in reading original texts. Due to shortage of time and lack of interest or patience, they are reluctant to read books. They mostly depend on notes and ready handouts, which are not at all alternatives to the original books. Besides, our readership seems to be limited to the Ekushey Book Fair in February. But for the rest of the year, we don’t see any big event where readers can go and buy books of their choice. Even in Dhaka, we don’t have too many large bookshops where all types of books are available. We can name only Pathak Samabesh, a popular book shop in Shahbagh, which showcases some academically important and uncommon books. Actually, our book market is very small and limited to Nilkhet and Aziz Super Market in Shahbagh. I don’t want to mention the Bangla Bazar book market because it mainly publishes notebooks and guidebooks. People tend to buy books from Nilkhet because they can get them at a cheaper price. Our education system is also responsible for this aversion to reading. The system doesn’t encourage our students to read books that are not included in the syllabus. However, we need to develop the habit of reading, which can help enlighten us and refresh our minds. National book fairs should take place in all upazilas and districts. Teachers should encourage the students to read the original books, and set questions from those books so that our students refrain themselves from relying on notebooks just to pass exams and get a degree.

Sheikh Pulok, Writer

I translate English books into Bangla and I am doing it for the last 15 years. Translated books always have demand. It is sad that today we don’t have that many people who translate books. The demand for translated paper books will always be there, but we have to be more aware about piracy. For example, the latest Harry Potter book was selling like hot cakes, but some people started reprinting them, so readers brought the cheaper ones. In cases like that, the publishers do not get the profit they deserve. Then again, there are many publishers who don’t pay royalties. Humayun Ahmed, an eminent writer of our country, found a way to touch the right nerve of our readers. He managed a way to make today’s confused generation love paper books. He is not with us anymore, but the field is wide open for young writers to come and make that happen again.  

Meem Noshin Nawal Khan, Writer

My first book was published when I was in class three. So far, 11 books of mine have been published and one of them is available as an e-book. I believe in the next 15 years, e-books will replace paper books. Paper books will be there, but I am not sure what significance they will have then. I also think it is high time publisher’s start giving royalties on a regular basis. I get royalties from less than 40 per cent of my publishers. It’s really frustrating and some think that as e-books are more popular, they will give less.      

Md Jamirul Rahman, Parent

I have a daughter who is eight and she loves to read paper books. It came as a surprise to me because I never read many books in my life. Now we take her to different book fairs and try to buy her the books she wants. As a parent, I love the fact that my daughter is reading books, but it is also true that books are more expensive now. Maybe, e-books are better from that perspective.

Masuda Mumu, Parent

We have a girl and a boy, my daughter is the mature one among the two and she is more into books. Both my husband and I work and to be honest, we don’t get much time to take them out to visit that many book fairs. I hope we will be able to take them to other book fairs that are organised in our country.

Md Shajahan Khan, Bookseller

I owned a bookstore in Nilkhet. I am from Old Dhaka so many well-known writers know me. They liked the way I talked, so they used to buy books from my bookstore. There was a fire accident in our market and I lost my shop. Now here comes the interesting part _ although I didn’t have a shop any more, people called me all the time for books. I used to collect books from other shops, and even went to India a few times, to get books for them. By selling books to exclusive clients, I have been able to recover my losses and now I am planning to open a bookshop in Aziz Super Market. Many of my clients are young people who live in more posh parts of the city like Gulshan and Banani. They have tabs and smartphones, but they still prefer to read paper books. I myself am a living proof that people read paper books and will continue to do so no matter what.

Md Alam, Bookseller

I have a small bookstore in Asad Gate. I have been selling books for more than 30 years. The demand for paper books has increased, no matter what people say. I had nothing when I came to Dhaka, and by selling books I have raised my children. I am building my own house now thanks to paper books. Over the years, I have sold mostly translated books and they have cult followers. I have heard about e-books and online reading, I hope they don’t become that popular anytime soon!

Noirit Mustapha contributed to this article.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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