New Lahore bookshop revives reading culture

By Kamila Hyat, for the Gulf News (April 28, 2008) 

Lahore:  For years, book lovers in Lahore, a city reputed for its literary history as well as its architectural inheritance, have mourned the apparent loss of the love of reading.

Many book shops have gradually vanished and in others, magazines have taken the place of more substantial tomes.

Teachers and parents have lamented the fact that in an age of television, DVDs, computer games and numerous other forms of jazzy electronic entertainment, children had turned away from books.

But, a single experimental idea has proved much of this conjecture about the relationship between Lahoris and books to be false.

The large Readings bookstore, which stocks row after row of used books, encyclopaedias and other literary material from the US, has within the two years or so of its existence become one of the most popular spots in the city.

Easy for readers

Scattered floor cushions and stools create a comfortable environment for browsers and the careful categorisation of the books makes it easy for readers of all ages and interest groups to find the kind of reading material they like best.

“The sight of children of all ages sitting and looking through piles of books is thrilling. I had really feared this was a dying habit, but this shop has shown that if books are reasonably priced people love to buy them,” said Hajra Asad, 75, who was visiting the shop with her great-grandson, aged four.

With an entire area devoted to children’s books, many kids can be seen there each afternoon – particularly as the heat of summer makes any other outdoor activity impossible.

A key attraction of the shop is the extremely low cost of the books, with prices starting at Rs20 (Dh1.83) or less. This means, for many clients, the liberty of going home laden with a whole pile of books they can leaf through at leisure.

The price of most imported books is generally at least ten or twenty times of the items sold at Readings, putting them beyond the reach of many and forcing almost everyone to think twice before buying.

A new Cafe opened at the shop, another first for Lahore where the concept of eateries inside bookshops has not previously been tried out, adds to the pleasure of visiting the spot.

Of course, the addition of the coffee, tea and refreshment place, also keeps people within the premises longer, encouraging book buying sprees. The bookshop has also been setting up stalls at city schools, to encourage children to buy books.

Most importantly, the arrival of Readings has demonstrated that the age-old love affair between Lahore and literature has not faded away.

10 responses to “New Lahore bookshop revives reading culture

  1. Pingback: New Lahore bookshop revives reading culture | Tea Break

  2. Oh, I love that place so much. I’ll surely miss it when I’ll be out of Lahore this June.

  3. Though I prefer ebooks over dead tree books, my son goes crazy every time he visits Readings.
    The prices are really amazing, and allows one to buy a few dozen books without second thoughts. Thanks to Readings, we don’t have to be jealous of Borders anymore.

  4. It is truly wonderful to find a second hand bookshop full of treasures, old classics and an excellent range of books by contemporary authors. It is tempting to spend the entire afternoon at Readings just browsing. but one invariably picks up a book or two because the price is so attractive and affordable. We certainly need more bookshops in Lahore . It would not hurt to have a Barnes and Noble around the corner either.

  5. Hey I js wanna say dat i rele like the fact that a bookstore like READINGS is present in the city..I LOVE reading n i wud have been unable to do so if it wasnt for dis bookshop since my library gets new books after ages..I cnt tell u how happy i felt when i bought TWILIGHT from im done wid dat saga n im lookin 4ward to readin the host by meyer..n unfinished symphony by VC andrews..neways y am i announcin dis..ooh yeah I no im killin time so i dont have to go n STUDY

  6. Dear Sir,

    I would like to know about my grandfather’s string of book shops all over Pakistan by the name of J.Ray & Sons Ltd., which were in existence before 1947.


    Kashyap Gul Ray

  7. Readings is a great bookshop. After buying all the books, I like to sit in the Cafe with my parents. Readings is the only bookshop (other than those small old bookshops you can find)that has Goosebumps books’ price as low as 35 Rs. Many classics sold there are available in affordable prices, plus there are some books that you can’t find anywhere else. One of my friends in school says that he is the nephew of the owner of Readings. And it is the truth!

  8. Does READINGS have a website, where we can pre-order?

  9. Hi.
    My love for books is a gift from my Abbu.He showed us the importance of books and how to keep them.Used to buy books from various places like sunday bazar in Anarkali,Galexy in Liberty ,Ferozsons etc .But the range and variety available at reading is just amazing have bought tons from there .Not Just for me but for kids also.My daughter always fills a trolley load of books for her .With prices that amazing no one can say no.Working just next to readings is another blessing, to spend spare time having a cup of tea and a good book in your hand.LOVE this place

  10. I appreciate all the good efforts to promote READING HABIT among the people of all the age groups.
    Through the World’s Largest Urdu website : Urdu Manzil : and , through the Adabi / Literary Jashns , Aalmi/ International Mushaire , Launching ceremonies of literary books,magazines,websites etc. and through the Sham e Afsana wa Ghazal functions,Adabi/Literary Seminars etc. we are always trying to Promote Urdu and Other Languages and , we are also trying our best to create very good READING HABIT among the people belonging to different countries .

    Best wishes ,
    Saghier Ahmed Jafri
    Urdu Manzil

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