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Saeed Book Bank: Another casualty in KP

February 26, 2011

Photo - Express Tribune

It’s not that I never anticipated the closure of one of Peshawar’s largest and oldest bookstores, Saeed Book Bank, yet that news still broke my heart. I can’t exactly recall my first visit to the store but I do know it was the best book store in the province.

Saeed Book Bank has been regarded as a site worth mentioning to tourists in Peshawar. It has served the literary and educational needs of the people of KP for over five decades.

Saeed Book Bank was established in 1955 by Saeed Jan Qureshi. His sons took over the family business in 1985. By the 1990s the store had expanded to a double story wonderland -the basement stored academic course books that covered all disciplines. In addition to this children’s books, religious books and vast collections of Urdu literature, both prose and poetry, were easily available. The ground floor would had shelf after shelf of English titles, fiction and non-fiction, preparatory books for standardized tests, coffee table books and magazines. The shop also sold greeting cards and office supplies.

The closure of Saeed Book Bank  does not bode well for various reasons.

Firstly, one cannot help but regret that many businesses have moved out of Peshawar over the past five years or so. The prime reason for this is the dismal economic situation and growing uncertainty caused by militancy.

Secondly, while talking to media, the owner of Saeed Book Bank said that one reason for the closure was the non-existent culture of book reading in Peshawar. The fact that not many people read books cannot be denied but one cannot help but question how much this has to do with prices. Books in general, especially imported ones, are quite expensive. Books by foreign publishers from the US and UK are priced well above Rs1,000. Despite one’s desire to own and read, a book could be out of one’s reach due to it’s price.

Unfortunately, libraries cannot substitute bookstores. There are not many available but they do help promote the reading trend. In Peshawar, the British Council, used to be a nice and cozy corner for readers but it too closed its doors for the people some time back due to the deteriorating security situation.

There are a couple of other bookstores in Peshawar with fairly good collections but finding a books is still not easy – especially if you are looking for a rare title. I think it is time for the leading booksellers in Pakistan to come up with user friendly online ordering systems so that the readers can stop relying on visiting bookstores.

Written for: The Express Tribune

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. Ugly Shoelace permalink
    February 26, 2011 3:17 pm

    Sigh.

  2. February 26, 2011 7:54 pm

    there’s one in isloo too and I must admit even though I loved roaming around it but I never bought books from there. They were very pricey .. like very pricey and I was fond of the local old book shop. But you can always get the title in best quality from there .. I hope it stills living. I wonder if they ever thought of having an in-store cafe too. I ended up buying many books from one such store in Isloo … you just have to buy if you’ve started a nice book :)

  3. February 26, 2011 10:46 pm

    From ‘books, not bombs’ to ‘bombs, not books’ it is a tragic story for my beloved city Peshawar! Thanks for highlighting this Ayesha. Imagine not a single library worth the name in a city of almost three million people. I am in small UK city for the last three years. The population of this English city is just about 3 hundred thousand i.e almost one-tenth of that of Peshawar and the number of public libraries more than 25. And I don’t consider other libraries in universities and colleges. All the public libraries are full of up-to-date books, with all facilites with different sections for every age group. And oh Peshawar!

    • March 9, 2011 2:40 pm

      I think lack of libraries is also connected with the ‘Education Emergency’. 2011 has been declared the year of education in Pakistan but our budget spending on education is only 1.5 %

      In a broader picture it isn’t about just Peshawar. Our entire system needs to be revamped.

  4. February 27, 2011 1:22 am

    I am agreed with Asma….too much costly books… its been ages I ended up buying anything from Saeed…

    • March 9, 2011 2:41 pm

      How about e-books available for download? I got a few from the Internet recently. Some are hard to read pdf files but some thing is better than nothing :)

  5. February 27, 2011 4:51 am

    Sad. I didn’t know SBB was originally based in Peshawar. Came to know about it through your blog. I thought it had always been in Islamabad. But I do agree that the sight of it made me, rather, jealous :P
    We in Hyderabad, don’t have good bookshops, barring a couple of them, which has limited varieties. I myself buy originals, and don’t care if they’re used/ second hand.

    It is indeed sad to see the reading culture going down like this. But I am sure, this is not true. Book reading might look like something that that is getting more and more unpopular, but the truth is contrary. According to some surveys, which I came across, the book reading has increased a bit after 2000. Also this slight boost came after the release of Harry Potter series (my personal favorite). Also followed by adaptations on the big screen.
    Talking about online bookshops, Kitabain.com is a great source of books. Based in Karachi, it has a large collection of books. I was amazed to find rare books in their collection too, with a relatively low price.
    I do hope that the book reading culture keeps on growing :)

    And by the way, the article was awesome :)

  6. February 27, 2011 5:26 am

    Plz check these two websites.

    http://www.kitabain.com/

    http://www.thereadersclub.com

    I’m not sure whether they have service in Peshawar, but it would be interesting to find out.

    I like both these services.

  7. Tahir Ali permalink
    February 28, 2011 11:51 am

    My name is Tahir Ali and i am a Senior Accountant of SAEED BOOK BANK for the last 6 years, it’s sad for each others but my friends do you know about those who lost their ages in this Shop since a long.

    Mr. Akbar Saeed has turned off the shop and said “There is no reading culture in Peshawar and we mostly deal in foreign titles,” Akbar said. The family-owned business was established in 1955 but point to be noted here that a lot of Old Age Persons / Poor peoples also end their jobs due to their decision. (Without any Banifit)

    Allah help them who are in financial hardship because i know about their financial situations very well.

    Tahir Ali Senior Accountant SAEED BOOK BANK Cell: 03349031708

    • maryam permalink
      May 12, 2011 7:34 am

      Hi. My father had a posting to peshawar few months ago and i am fine arts student. now i am facing problem as from where to buy all the painting stuff. a freind of mine suggested your store but my bad luck that you have been shifted to islamabad. now could you please help me from where to buy this stuff. i have checked all the so-called super stores of this city but couldn’t.

    • May 12, 2011 11:43 am

      Check London Book Company on Arbab Road Saddar or Shaheen Books on University Road. The other two bookstores I would frequently visit.

    • maryam permalink
      May 12, 2011 12:10 pm

      oh so nice of you Ayesha. could u pls do me a favour? i need there contact numbers so to confirm first because its extremely difficult to roam around in new city

    • May 12, 2011 12:46 pm

      Try this number for London Book Co. I am not sure though if it is a correct number: 5272722

      I’ve lost the telephone number of Shaheen Books.

    • maryam permalink
      May 12, 2011 2:44 pm

      ok. thank you Ayesha :)

  8. Sameer Yusaf permalink
    March 3, 2011 3:55 am

    Heart breaking!!!

  9. sonia hussain permalink
    May 10, 2011 9:13 am

    I am just so pissed off these guys,, why the hell they vanished from Peshawar,,it was the only store where everything was available,, and now am here searching some good stores in peshawar on google,,, just four words for the owners of the stores,, TO HELL WITH YOU

  10. israr permalink
    May 14, 2011 1:25 am

    SO sad…! now where i will find My Best Medical Books….!!!!!!!!!!

  11. December 28, 2011 9:48 am

    its really bad

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