Over the last 22 years, April 23 has been celebrated as the World Books and Copyrights Day by UNESCO to encourage people to read books. In Kabul, however, neither the Minister of Culture and Information, nor the Publishers’ Committee have anything planned for the occasion, but the libraries in the city have organised book exhibition across the capital city.
Through the week public reading as well exhibitions will be conducted in several places of Kabul. On attending any such exhibitions, you will find several books, guides, basics religious texts etc.
Sadly though, book sellers in Kabul inform that the reading habits of people in the city are poor owing to several reasons. And those who are members of libraries, buy the books they need at universities. This issue was raised not only at the exhibitions, but also by bookstore owners in Joy Sheer, Pole Bagh Umomi, Kote Sangi, Chawk or around the Shahre Naw Park. Lack of a reading culture, quality, poverty and high prices are considered as the main reasons for this.
However, books on the history of Afghanistan are still among the best sellers, the booksellers’ claim.
A shocking report made jointly by Ministry of Culture and Information and Ministry of Education, from two years ago, claimed that most Afghans read for less than one minute per year. In Kabul, the 74 bookstores are collectively visited only by around 26,000 in a year.
Promoting a culture of reading, thus, will requires a nationwide effort, especially by the Ministry of Culture and Information. With the appointment of the new cabinet, there are expectations from the new minister Bari Jahani, but how successful he will be remains to be seen
We expect these ministries to pay attention to this issue and focus their efforts towards improving the reading culture within schools and universities across the country. They also need to extend their support to publishers and help boost investments in this sector.