Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Kenyan authors and publishers losing out, and students losing out even more

Book piracy is a worldwide problem, but particularly acute where there are hundreds of thousands of school students, most of whom don't have the money to pay for one $5 book, let alone two. So this story is bad news for Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and Ibsen's estate, but East African Educational Publishers should have been quicker off the mark if they wanted to sell The River Between and An Enemy of the People to 700,000 form 3 and 4 students. But rather than trying to compete conventionally with quick-witted (if evidently semi-literate) publishing pirates, with all the print bills, shipping costs and accounting that traditional publishing entails, they should look to install print-on-demand sites with low unit costs for schools. Students and teachers with extra cash could then buy more books, and everyone gets English literature – and more – without the pirates' typos. In less than a decade, the set-up costs would be repaying publishers (and country) with book-buying adults and a literate workforce.

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