The spread of coronavirus might have disrupted people's lives in a variety of ways, but it certainly couldn't dampen the spirits of book enthusiasts, who recently flocked to Karachi University's annual book fair to show their undying love for reading.
Organised by the Islami-Jamiat-e-Talaba, the three-day event — which ran from March 9 to 11 — attracted people not only from the varsity but book lovers from across the city.
To the delight of book lovers, a wide range of books were on display at the fair. The organisers claimed they had kept the coronavirus safety measures intact and reduced the number of stalls for this year's Karachi University Book Fair.
Speaking to Geo.tv, students said they visited the event for several reasons, but the most appealing aspect of the fair was the availability of a wide variety of books at discounted rates.
"I enjoyed this fair because it assembled books belonging to several genres under one roof," said Maryam Aslam, a third-year student from the Department of Psychology.
Aslam said the books were being sold at a discount of 50%, something that students would normally not find in the market.
According to her, this was one of the main reasons that pulled her towards the event despite the pandemic.
"Students are coming to the university every day, and since they are here, it is a good opportunity for them to purchase books here rather than going elsewhere," she said.
With regards to the threat of contracting the virus, Aslam said the organisers ensured that all the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) were being strictly implemented.
Tasbiha Shibli, a final-year student from the Department of Zoology, said she looks forward to the fair every year as it also sells textbooks.
"The environment over here is reader-friendly one, and when a person sees books everywhere, they just want to grab each one and keep reading them," Shibli said.
Akin to Aslam, she also said although the coronavirus cases were nearing 600,000, students had followed necessary SOPs to keep themselves safe.
"I can find all the books that I need for leisure reading as well as my course .... It saves a lot of time as everything that students need can be found here," said Osama Irshad, a student from the Department of Pharmacy.
When asked why people are still interested in purchasing books when they can find free-of-charge PDFs online, Irshad said that e-books do not provide the same level of satisfaction to him as compared to hard copies.
Owais Sheikh, another final-year student from the Department of Public Administration, said he was able to find all sorts of books at the fair, including poetry, novels, fiction, and history, among others.
"Even though we can find books online, the feeling that a book in your hand gives, is something else altogether," the student said.
"I was tired to read and learn online throughout the lockdown period ... this was an escape for me as you cannot keep book lovers away from such events," he added.
"As students, we’re always on a budget and this book fair is one of the most exciting events every year for me because I get to buy a lot of books at low prices," Hafsa Tahir, another final-year student from the Department of Psychology.
"Despite the pandemic, institutes have stuffed 80 students into one classroom. So why not [come here to the fair] to buy books?" the student questioned.
IJT's spokesperson Muneeb Ahmed told Geo.tv that the estimated footfall of the three-day book fair was nearly 40,000.
"We had set up as many as 120 bookstalls this year," he said.
Keeping the coronavirus situation in mind, the spokesperson said they had reduced the number of stalls and made sure COVID-19 SOPs were followed.