The world of pirated books

January 16, 2022

The Oxford Dictionary defines piracy as an act of making illegal copies of books, DVDs or computer programmes for the purpose of selling them. Lahore hosts all such kinds of pirated material,...

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The Oxford Dictionary defines piracy as an act of making illegal copies of books, DVDs or computer programmes for the purpose of selling them. Lahore hosts all such kinds of pirated material, especially books. From footpath stalls and shops spread around the city to online platforms selling cheaper versions of books, one can easily find any foreign or locally published title.

University students, making up the majority of Pakistan’s readership, are aware of this, much to their advantage. Whenever they are looking for an internationally published volume in the market, they encounter two scenarios: they can either buy the original book for a couple of thousand rupees or head towards the famous Urdu Bazaar, to lay their hands on its cheaper version at half the price; at times even less than that. Paper and print quality are usually the compromising factor in such books, but the original content inside, more often than not, makes up for that.

During our university days whenever we were suggested some foreign titles, we would – most of the time – get their pirated version from an aged ‘uncle’ selling those on his cart at the gate of the Institute of Communication Studies at our university. Prices of these pirated books depended on their thickness: a 200 page book went for 250 rupees, a 500 pages book for 550 rupees only. Due to inflation, prices of pirated books have increased from 50 to 100 rupees. Even then, they are much cheaper than the originals. So one can get the complete Harry Potter series from a local book stall or a bookseller’s account on Instagram for around Rs 2,500.

In a money strapped economy, it is no longer possible for the common man to spend thousands on a single book while cheaper substitutes are easily available.

The outcry of big publishing houses such as Oxford University Press etc is justified as piracy badly affects their sales and profits. But as far as the consumer is concerned and especially for the students in Pakistan, pirated books are an absolute blessing. In a money strapped economy, it is no longer possible for the common man to spend thousands on a single book while cheaper substitutes are easily available.

Though reliable statistics of books sold in Pakistan are not available, awareness sessions by publishing houses in universities against piracy show their deep concerns against this trend. Publishers argue that it not only hurts their businesses but also demotivates authors.

Debate can go on a long time on this issue as both sides are justified in their own ways. The best way to support the publishing industry perhaps is by holding regular book fairs and online sales where one can get suitable discounts.


The writer is a graduate of BS English literature from the University of the Punjab



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