Are African Writers And Readers Ready For The eBook Revolution?

This guest post, by Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima (with an introduction by Joanna Penn), originally appeared on Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn on 3/23/13.

This week, the “father of African literature’ Chinua Achebe died, leaving behind a legacy for Nigerian authors. Today I welcome another Nigerian author Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima to discuss the outlook for ebooks in Africa.

Ebook sales are stabilizing in the US and UK, but the rest of the world is out there waiting for our books!

Those of us who can price reasonably, to take into account exchange rate differences, can potentially build a fan-base in countries that may be surprising to some.

Nigeria is one of the fastest growing emerging economies, and with the prevalence of cellphones in Africa it may become a fantastic new market in the next few years, even though there are still challenges right now.

Ebooks are outselling paperback and hardcover books in America and Europe, but not yet in Africa.

Today, Nigerian author and blogger Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima will tell you why the story is different in Africa.

Ebooks are not popular among writers and readers in my country Nigeria, and the rest of Africa, even though millions of people have been using email over the years and are now engaging in daily conversations on popular social network sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The majority of Africans are still living according to the standards of the last century, writing long hand and either paying for word processing or slowly doing so themselves on their desktops or laptops. The exception would be the African writers based in the U.S., UK and other developed societies who have to use the tools their peers are using in the 21st century. South Africa is ahead of Nigeria and other African countries in using smart phones and tablets but only got her first ebook store, Kalahari, in 2010, but the ebooks are overpriced for the rest of the continent.

Why is the penetration of ebooks challenging right now?

Generally, from South Africa to Nigeria, the two main challenges of ebooks are:

  • low level of bandwidth and the low capacity of the data cables making the access to broadband expensive and unavailable to the majority of the populations.

But in spite of the low internet penetration in Africa, there is only one choice left for the majority who are still crawling and lagging behind, if we cannot beat them, we have to join them.

And that is why I give a thumbs up to David Risher who has launched Worldreader to take “1 million e-books to children in the largely English-speaking countries of Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya” and has raised a total of $1.5 million to fund his digital literature revolution in sub-Saharan Africa.

“David is pushing a fundamental conversation: How do you create a culture of reading in a place that hasn’t had one?” said Anne Marie Burgoyne, Managing Director of Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation that supported Worldreader with $300,000 last September.

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Read the rest of the post on Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn.

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