How to buy books on a budget in Karachi
Ever fallen in love with a book but had to leave the bookstore heartbroken because your wallet wouldn’t allow you to buy it?
From the first UK edition of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to The Testaments in hardback by Margaret Atwood, we bring you the best places where you can buy your favourite titles at surprisingly affordable rates.
Books 4 All
Books 4 All has been around for over eight years now but not many people know about it. It used to be a tiny stall with cartons full of books on the pavement in Karachi’s Lighthouse until March when it went completely online due to the pandemic.
Books 4 All is now a WhatsApp group with over 200 members from all over Pakistan. It sells paperbacks for as low as Rs150, and hardcovers Rs200. You can even get your hands on popular titles if you’re lucky enough, because the books are gone soon after they are uploaded around 9am daily.
“Only those who select the books first will get them,” Adeel Memon, the owner of Books 4 All, told SAMAA Digital. “It would be an injustice to others if I kept a book for someone who didn’t select it on time.”
No matter what the original price of the book is, it will never exceed Rs200 if you buy it here. Bestsellers such as Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments ($29.99), Bloomsbury Modern Classics ($8.99), and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies ($9.12) are easily available at Books 4 All, but you need a bit of luck to get your hands on a copy.
Memon can also help you if you are planning to build a library at home or at a school. He has already built libraries at four schools in Saddar. He can get you the same books for Rs150,000 that other distributors would sell for Rs400,000.
“I have ordered over 90 books on this group,” said Rafia, a member of Books 4 All from Peshawar. “I wish there was a service like this in Peshawar that provides original books at such affordable rates.”
Syed Ali Hussain, another member, said Books 4 All is the best service to recommend. “What I like most about it is the rule that whoever selects the book first gets it.”
Memon has also dedicated a separate WhatsApp group to book reviews and discussions on other topics, Chat Group Books 4 All.
Gulshan Book Bazaar
The market opposite Bait-ul-Mukarram Masjid in Gulshan-e-Iqbal does not have a name, but its carts full of books have led to many calling it the Gulshan Book Bazaar. It is over 30 years old and unlike other book markets, sells a wide variety of new and used books, including locally published Urdu and English novels, textbooks, international bestsellers and encyclopedias at economical prices.
“I have been selling books here for 20 years,” said 55-year-old Ghulam Muhammad. “A book that costs Rs1,200 at a bookstore is sold here for Rs150 in excellent condition.”
Besides latest releases, you may also discover in the market’s dusty piles of books early editions of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and classics like Great Expectations and Wuthering Heights.
“I recently bought a first UK edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in a remarkable condition for only Rs200,” said Areeba, a regular buyer.
If you’re seeking a book that is not easily available in the market, all you have to do is write down the book and its author’s name and give it to the vendors. They will arrange it within 14 days or less.
“We charge extra for arranging books, but it’s a small amount,” said Noman, who has been selling books for 10 years. “A number of people approach me whenever a new title is out.”
The vendors also offer borrowing plans starting from Rs20, which allow readers to keep a book for up to two months. You can even exchange books without paying extra charges.
“I can buy all my favourite writers’ books here,” said Ayesha Altaf, a 22-year-old psychology student. “These book markets can play an important role in promoting reading culture among youngsters.”