'We come across many students from schools and universities who save up money only to buy books from our stall'
From super spy Masud Rana of Bangladesh CounterIntelligence, to teenage investigators Kishor, Musa and Robin of Rocky Beach, California, numerous fictional but iconic characters introduced by Sheba Prokashoni have been entertaining Bengali readers for more than half a century.
The publication house opened up a whole new world for readers in Bangladesh since it was founded in 1963. And with its paperbacks, after all these years, Sheba still draws a huge crowd at the annual Amar Ekushey Book Fair every day.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune at their stall on Wednesday, Sheba staff Mominul Islam said the books they sell are affordable and students do not have to worry much about their wallet.
The price range of their books starts from Tk69 taka, he said, adding that their most expensive books cost up to Tk256.
“We come across many students from schools and universities who save up money only to buy books from our stall,” said Mominul, who has been working at the publication house for 25 years.
Sheba Prokashoni’s books are not just fun to read, they often create a bridge between cultures, he said.
“If you look at the Tin Goyenda [Three Investigators] series, the team leader is of Bangladesh origin, one is an African-American teenager, and the other is white. The setting and characters are culturally diverse. This series helps our readers learn about people from different cultures,” he said.
When it comes to selling books at the Ekushey Book Fair, Mominul said the Masud Rana series draws more readers — followed by Tin Goyenda — than any other genre they publish.
Shamsia Rahman has been buying Sheba’s books for almost three decades.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, she said: “It is difficult to put down the Tin Goyenda books once you begin. They are easy and fun to read, and it feels like reliving my teenage years.”
However, she feared that Tin Goyenda’s popularity is going downhill as young readers nowadays are not interested in reading books.
Stamford University student Sutapa Das was found looking for the latest Masud Rana books from the catalogue in front of the Sheba Prokashoni stall.
“I grew my reading habit because of Sheba Prokashoni. The Masud Rana series has always been my top favourite,” she said.
Since it was founded in 1963 by Qazi Anwar Hussain, Sheba Prokashoni has offered an array of popular Bangla paperbacks to readers at affordable prices.
Its adventure series Kuasha, spy-thriller series Masud Rana, and Tin Goyenda, have been among the most popular books.
The books of Kuasha and Masud Rana, created by Anwar himself, became greatly popular in Bangladesh before and after the 1971 Liberation War — at a time when cable television or video games had not yet come to the country’s shores.
The Kishore Classic series provides condensed translations of works from famed authors such as Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Alexandre Dumas, from around the world.
The Tin Goyenda series, stories of three teenagers’ adventures, were adapted from series books of different foreign languages, including the Three Investigators, the Famous Five, the Hardy Boys and similar detective books.
Sheba Prokashoni’s most popular productions also include monthly magazine Rohossya Patrika, translated horrors such as Pishach Kahini, translated Sheba romantic fiction novels, and a huge array of Western books based on stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West.