Books Events Featured News publishing

Publishers record brisk business as parents flock Eldoret Book Fair

The 2023 edition of the regional book fair, organised by the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) ended on Saturday in Eldoret.

The event, that was held at the Eldo Center Car Park, kicked off on Wednesday. It brought together a number of publishers and booksellers, who sold books at discounted prices to members of the public.

Despite the depressed economy, the exhibitors did brisk business as parents, teachers and students flocked the venue seeking to replenish their school supplies.

Kiarie Kamau, the chairman of KPA urged county governments and the national government to support publishers by establishing school and community libraries; and ensuring that the libraries are well stocked. “On our part, we shall donate books to such libraries, and offer others at highly discounted prices,” said Kamau, who is also the CEO of East African Educational Publishers. He added that publishers are not content with merely publishing textbooks. “We also publish general reading materials such as storybooks, novels and biographies. Our desire is to promote lifelong learning so that learners can broaden their knowledge and perspectives.

Mary Maina, who chairs the Nairobi International Book Fair committee, explained that their choice of Eldoret as venue for this year’s regional book fair, was partly informed by the fact that the town is soon to be elevated to city status. “The fact that plans are at an advanced stage to turn Eldoret into a city, speaks of the resilient and hardworking nature of the world famous Home of Champions,” added Ms Maina, who is also the MD of Moran Publishers.

Last year’s event was held in Nakuru, which had just been elevated to a city status.

The chief guest during the fair was prof Janet Kosgei, the Uasin Gishu county minister in charge of Education, who also took the opportunity to mentor school children, particularly girls, on the need to take up Sciences as a course. Prof Ng’eno has a PhD in Mathematics.

Also present during the event was Khalif Isaack the Uasin Gishu County Director of Education.

The highlight of the event was a visit to the Eldoret School for Hearing Impaired, where the publishers donated reading materials and foodstuffs worthy sh850,000.

The donation forms part of KPA’s CSR activities during every book fair.

The regional book fair, held in different county headquarters, is a precursor to the annual Nairobi International Book Fair, held at the Sarit Center towards the end of September.

Awards Books Fiction Issues News

Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature: A call for entries

The Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) has made a call for submissions for the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature. Winners of the award will be unveiled in September, during the 24th edition of the Nairobi International Book Fair.

Titles to be submitted must have been published between 2020 and May 2022. There are two levels of awards: The Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature and The Wahome Mutahi Award for Humour and Satire.

The Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature has three main categories, namely Adult, Youth and Children. Each category has an English and Kiswahili version.

The Wahome Mutahi Literary Award has an English and Kiswahili category. Writers of drama/plays can submit their entries under the adult category of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize and the Wahome Mutahi Award.

Submissions for each category should be accompanied with five non-returnable copies of the book to be entered. Each submission should also be accompanied by a fee of sh10,000 for KPA members and sh25,000 for non-members.

All entries must have been published in Kenya. Although the quality of the content will be the overriding criterion, there are other considerations to be looked into. These are: quality of binding, cover design, quality of paper used, quality of illustrations where applicable and the general layout of the book.

The Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature is the brainchild of KPA. It was established in the early 1970s and is open to Kenyan writers whose works are published in Kenya. The prize is awarded to the author of the most outstanding new book in all the categories.

Books Events Issues News publishing

Jomo Kenyatta/Wahome Mutahi Literary Prizes announced

Marx Kahende, a retired diplomat and Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s son, Nducu, are among the winners of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature.

Kahende’s book, The Wayward Vagabond, published by East African Educational Publishers (EAEP), won in the adult English category, while Nducu wa Ngugi’s book Benji’s Big Win (EAEP), won in the youth English category. Former Nairobian columnist, Sarah Haluwa’s book, Chadi’s Trip (Storymoja) won in the children’s English category.

The awards ceremony, organised by the Kenya Publishers Association, was held on Saturday evening at the Pride Inn Hotel, in Westlands, at the tail-end of the Nairobi International Book Fair.

Samuel Wachira, a Catholic priest based in Meru won the Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize with his book, Hustlers’ Chains, published by One Planet Publishers.

Other winners included Kiswahili scholar Prof Kithaka wa Mberia, whose book Kwenzi Gizani (Marimba Publications) won the Kiswahili Adult Category. In the Kiswahili youth category, the winner was Mbona Hivi? Written by Shullam Nzioka and published by Oxford University Press.

The winner in the Kiswahili children’s category was Fumbo la Watamu by Ali Attas, published by One Planet.

During the event, Prof Laban Ayiro, the Daystar Universtity Vice-Chancellor, who was the chief guest, challenged Kenyans to embrace the culture of reading if they hoped to become good leaders. He emphasised that reading is a prerequisite to good leadership. He also decried the poor reading habits exhibited by the younger generation and majority of leaders across all sectors.

Kiarie Kamau, the chairman of Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) spoke about the supremacy Kenyan publishing. “We are increasingly becoming a force to reckon with in the area of Publishing in Africa and beyond,” said Kamu, who is also the managing director of EAEP. “We sit on the Executive Committees of the International Publishers Association as well as the African Publishers Network. We publish high quality and wide range of general reading materials, most of which serve a global audience. We are already visible on the digital publishing and online selling space … the two literary awards demonstrate that indeed Publishing in Kenya has come of age.”

Books Education Events Featured Issues News publishing

Relief as Kenyan publishers hold first book fair in two years

It was relief for Kenyan publishers after they held their first book fair in two years in Nakuru City last week.

The publishers are just recovering from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw them lose a whole year’s sales when learning institutions were closed in 2020.

Kiarie Kamau (third from left), the chairman of Kenya Publishers Association conducts Jared Obiero (in blue suit), the Rift Valley Director of Education, around the stands at the Nakuru Regional Book Fair. PICTURE| KLB

Due to restrictions pertaining to Covid protocols, they could not hold a physical book fair. They therefore tried something new, a virtual book fair, which however did not realise any sales. The disappointing outcome made them to cancel plans for holding fairs in 2021.

In total, Kenyan publishers missed out on four book fairs. Each year, the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) holds two book fairs; a regional one in the counties and an international one at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi.

They were thus raring to go when it became clear that the Nakuru regional book fair would finally become a reality. Kiarie Kamau, the chairperson of KPA expressed optimism that the worst is now behind and urged publishers to diversify their product portfolio to avoid over-reliance on textbooks. “Though schools were closed due to Covid restrictions, people were still reading behind closed doors. We need to fully service this general market while at the same time publishing for the school market,” said Mr Kamau who is also the managing director of East African Educational Publishers (EAEP).

He noted that their decision to hold the regional book fair in Nakuru was informed by the fact that exactly a year ago the town acquired city status. “We wanted to celebrate with the people of Nakuru,” explained Mr. Kamau. “We were excited to see the enthusiastic response from teachers, parents, students and booksellers who thronged our stands during the four days we were at the Maasai Market, along Kenyatta Avenue. Publishers made good sales.”

He added that booksellers were particularly excited to see the fair come to their city. “Booksellers were hard hit by the Covid pandemic; some had even closed shop. To them, this was a clear indication that things are back to normal,” added Mr Kamau.


On her part, Mary Maina, the chairperson of the Nairobi International Book Fair, regional book fairs are the best avenues of taking books to the people, in the true spirit of devolution. “In our case we are distributing knowledge, thereby giving Kenyans throughout the country a chance to sample what publishers have to offer,” said Ms Maina, who is also the managing director of Moran Publishers.

She added that visitors to the Fair got a chance to see all the books that have been approved to be used in the Competency Based Curriculum, which is currently in Grade Six as well as the remaining classes of the 8-4-4 System. “Also on offer were revision books for school children, as well and books for general reading like readers and novels for adults. We got very encouraging reception from booksellers who were keen to stock up,” added Ms Maina.

Kithusi Mulonzya, the CEO of One Planet Publishers, noted that the Nakuru Regional Book Fair was a dry run for the Nairobi International Book Fair that will be held in September. “This year’s event will be bigger and better,” he said. 

John Mburu, the general manager of Patmat Bookshop, in Nakuru, thanked publishers for marketing and promoting booksellers in the region. “The coming of the book fair in Nakuru has really boosted our sales,” he said.

The highlight of the Fair was a visit to the Love for All Children’s Home in Shabab area, where publishers donated foodstuffs and books worth sh200,000.

Events Issues News publishing

Nairobi Book Fair postponed indefinitely

The 23rd edition of the Nairobi International Book Fair, which was scheduled to be held from September 28 to October 2, has been postponed indefinitely, as a way of prevention against Covid-19.

“After careful consultative discussions with key stakeholders, the KPA board agreed that the presidential directive issued on 18th August 2021, vide Public Order No. 5 on the Coronavirus pandemic suspending public gatherings and in-person meetings, be strictly adhered to and hence the board has postponed the book fair to a later date, notwithstanding the strict and meticulous Covid 19 protocols advanced by the Sarit Centre management,” reads a statement from the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), who are the organisers of the Book Fair.

KPA, adds the statement, will inform book lovers on whether the Fair will be held at a later date. “Kenya Publishers Association is keen to make the Nairobi International Bookfair happen soon,” said KPA. “The board shall be watching the environment and ministry directives in order to communicate to the general public and potential exhibitors on the new book fair dates.”

Maisha Yetu understands that the decision to postpone the Fair was arrived at by holding consultations with stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education. Schools are also understood to have expressed reservations about busing in pupils to the Fair.

KPA only held a virtual book fair last year, when the whole country was put on very severe Covid lockdowns.

With Covid cases on the increase in the country, publishers have privately expressed fears that the Fair might be cancelled altogether. A looming cancellation would be a huge blow to the KPA secretariat, seeing the Fair is its main source of revenue, where exhibitors buy stands to showcase their wares.

Individual publishers are crossing their collective fingers, hoping that the Covid situation improves, as the Fair is the venue through which they seal book deals with various institutions, for them to purchase books.

Also hanging in the balance is the announcement of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, which is awarded after every two years. However, the judging process of the manuscripts is on-going and nominees will soon be announced. It is hoped that winners will be announced when the new dates of the Fair are made public.

Still, KPA has made arrangements for the Fair to be hosted virtually, even when the new dates are announced.

“Please also note that once the date is set the Bookfair will still be blended (both in person and virtual),” adds the KPA statement.

The Book Fair is held on annual basis at the Sarit Center in Westlands.

Education Issues News publishing

How Matiang’i won the battle to put books in the hands of poor pupils

When former Education Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiang’i realised that corrupt booksellers and head teachers were pilfering money meant for the purchase of textbooks, he instituted a number of measures that cut off booksellers from the textbooks’ gravy train, leaving head teachers high and dry and pupils in public schools quite happy.

Publishers, he ordered, would henceforth deliver books direct to schools, bypassing booksellers in the process.

By doing so, Matiang’i hit two birds with one stone. He saved the government tonnes of money meant to purchase the books, as the government bought the books at highly discounted prices. He also ensured that each pupil in public schools got a book for each subject.

At one point, President Uhuru Kenyatta, while flagging off books to be delivered to schools, wondered why the books had all over sudden become so affordable.

Well, we have the answer. Once the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) approves the books for use in schools, publishers participate in a tendering process, whereby the lowest priced bid wins the tender and gets to supply books directly to schools, at the cost of publishers.

Ever since the bidding process began, publishers have been known to severely undercut each other with a single book being sold by as low as sh40! A similar book, when sold in the open market (private schools market) goes for as much as sh500.

Publishers might explain the basement low prices with the argument that since booksellers have been knocked off the value chain, the 30 per cent discount normally given to booksellers, has been knocked off the cost of buying the book. Still, the prices they are bidding at the tender are simply too low.

However, our discussions with players in the industry revealed that things are not so rosy with the publishers and that the lowering of the bids is a deliberate tactic, aimed at securing the publishers’ interests when it comes to selling the books in the open market (read the private schools market.)

While the government will buy the books, to be distributed in public schools, at ridiculously low prices, the ones used in private schools are sold at market rates, and here booksellers are involved.

This is how it works: Once a book has been approved by KICD, it is then published in the Orange Book, meaning that all schools, following the soon-to-be discarded 8-4-4 system and the newly introduced Competence Based Curriculum (CBC), have no option other than to use that book. Thus, while the publishers might suffer some losses while selling their books in the public schools, they hope to recoup some of their investments when they sell the book in the open market.

Thus, the low bidding is a tactic to lock the market for these books, for as long as they will be used in schools.

This now becomes the pitfall of publishers putting all their eggs in one basket – the school market as opposed to general readership books. Here, as long as the government funds education in Kenya, it will continue calling the shots.

This is case of he who pays the piper calling the tune. Publishers will have to put up with the whims of the government for now and on the brighter side, pupils in public schools, some of who would not have afforded the books are the current beneficiaries.

The corrupt head teachers who used to shortchange the process can only twiddle their thumbs knowing that they have been outsmarted. The same case applies to crooked booksellers who used to collude with the head teachers.   

Events Issues News Releases

Publishers disown book price increase

Kenyan parents can now rest easy in the knowledge that book prices are not going to be increased, at least according to the publishers’ umbrella body.
In a press statement dated January 2, 2016, Mr. David Waweru, the chairman of Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), reports appearing in the media to the effect that book prices have been increased by up to 15 per cent are ‘false and alarmist’ .


“The  source cited is  not an industry insider and  no  effort was made  to verify this  false
information,” explained Mr. Waweru, who is also the CEO of WordAlive Publishers.
He added “The facts  are that  out of over 4,000  textbooks in the
Orange Book only  about 200 books are affected  by a  price increase of between  4 and 10 per cent.” He however did not specify which books are to be affected by the price increase.
“Whereas publishers would have
wished to  increase the prices to match the increase of the  costs of production and mitigate for the
weakening shilling, publishers instead  opted to  lower their  margins with  the increase of  4 to 10 per cent and keep a majority of  the titles at the same price level.  In fact, prices on some titles were  reduced,” he added.

Mr. David Waweru

Our sources however tell us that, on this issue, the horse has already bolted, as book distributors have marked up their prices and are advising bookshops to follow suit.
The real bone of contention, though is the Kenya government’s unpopular decision to slap VAT on books. “KPA once again  urges government  to
zero-rate textbooks as it is  immoral to  tax knowledge and  therefore raise  the  barriers  of access  to books,” said Mr. Waweru.
Kenya, he explained, is the second country in Africa, after South Africa, to impose VAT on books despite being signatories to international conventions that commit not to impose taxes on books.

Events Issues News Personalities

Mbugua, Dawood to battle it out for Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize

This year’s Wahome Mutahi Literary prize is shaping up to be another epic battle between surgeon Yusuf Dawood and journalist Ng’ang’a Mbugua. They both have been nominated in the Adult English category of the award set to be delivered at the end of September.

My Land

Dawood’s book The Last Word, published by Longhorn a collection of essays that have been published in the Surgeon’s Diary column in Sunday Nation, has been nominated alongside Mbugua’s book This land is our Land, (Big Books) a collection of poetry. The other nominee is a book titled A Gift from a Stranger (KLB) authored by Waigwa Wachira.

The first contest between the two took place in 2011 when Dawood’s novel Eye of the Storm was nominated alongside Mbugua’s Terrorists of the Aberdare. Eye of the Storm took the ultimate prize with Terrorists of the Aberdare coming in at second. Literary observers agree that it was a close contest.


In 2012 the two writers were at it again. Dawood’s book Eye of the Storm was again in contention, this time for the Wahome Mutahi Prize against Mbugua’s Different Colours. This time Mbugua took home the prize. Mbugua is a veteran of the Wahome Mutahi Prize as Terrorists of the Aberdare had won the prize in 2010.

Ng'ang'a Mbugua (Left), is all smiles as he receives his winner's certificate from Prof Egara Kabaji, who was the chief guest at the ceremony
Ng’ang’a Mbugua (Left), receiving his winner’s certificate at a previous awards ceremony

The Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize is held every two years in honour of the late humourist and novelist Wahome Mutahi of the Whispers column fame. It is organised by the Kenya Publishers Association and held at the end of the annual Nairobi International Book Fair.

There are four different categories to be awarded in the Wahome Mutahi Prize, namely English Adult, Kiswahili Adult, English Children and Kiswahili Children categories. The two children’s categories were introduced for this year’s Award.

Nominees in the Kiswahili Adult category are Juma Namlola’s Kula kwa Mheshimiwa (JKF), Tom Olali’s Watu wa Gehenna (JKF) and Jeff Mandila’s Upepo wa Mvua (JKF). In the Children English category, the nominees are Charles Gecaga’s Kuti makes a Difference (KLB), Naomi the Detective by Joseph Muleka (KLB) and A Note for Alice by Mureithi Maina (Moran).

In the Kiswahili Children category the nominees are John Kobia’s Maskini Punda (KLB), Kiswahili Gani by Lilian Wairimu (KLB) and Bitugi Matundura’s Adhabu ya Joka (Longhorn). Winners in each category will take home a cash prize of sh50,000.

A win for Ng’ang’a will be a major boost for Kenyan poets at it will be the first time a collection of poetry will be winning a major literary prize in the country. Literary prizes in Kenya are seen to only recognise prose writers. The Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize however has demonstrated its flexibility when the prize was awarded to activist Okoiti Omtata’s play Voice of the People in 2008.

Check out our review of Mbugua’s poetry book.

The judging panel consists of Dr Tom Odhiambo, as chair, of University of Nairobi, Prof Wangari Mwai of Kenyatta University and Rose Mavisi of Catholic University.

Issues News

These are Kenya’s most pirated books

The Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) is sounding out alarm bells; book piracy is threatening to erase all the gains made by the industry over the years. KPA chairman Lawrence Njagi says that book pirates are becoming more daring and with the availability of new technology they are now pirating, not just school set books, but any title that is capable of moving more than 300 copies.


For many years set books, for schools in Kenya, have been ripe targets for pirates as they are fast moving – a compulsory recommended set book can sell upwards of about 400,000 copies in a year – and the profit margins are equally high. While set books remain the most pirated in terms of sheer volumes, other titles regarded to be modest sellers are now being targeted for piracy.


“Book piracy is complicated by the fact that pirates use modern printing technology to produce their books. Piracy is no longer a poor man’s pastime. When pirates have the capacity of produce up to 50,000 copies, we are talking of people with huge financial muscle,” explains Njagi.

sun goes down

Njagi is referring to a case, in January last year a well-known commercial printer was found with over 50,000 pirated copies of Mstahiki Meya, a Kiswahili play, which is currently a set book. Had this printer not have been apprehended, these pirated books would have found their way into bookshops and street vendors, selling alongside genuine copies of the same.

Damu Nyeusi

Apart from Mstahiki Meya, the other heavily pirated set books are Kidagaa Kimemwozea: A Kiswahili novel by Ken Walibora, published by Spotlight. Damu Nyeusi na Hadithi Nyingine: A collection of Kiswahili short stories published by Moran. The River and the Source: An English novel by the late Margaret Ogola, published by Focus. When the Sun goes down and other stories: A collection of English short stories published by Longhorn. Caucasian Chalk Circle: An English play by Bertolt Brecht published locally by Spotlight. Mstahiki Meya: is written by Timothy Arege and published by Vide Muwa


Mr Simon Sossion, who is the KPA vice chairman suspects that foreigners are now involved in book piracy and that they are the ones engaging in offshore printing. To curb this offshore printing Sossion says that KPA members are in consultations with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) with a view to the tax body demanding a letter from the Kenya Copyright Board before they clear any consignment of books. “This way we shall have dealt a big blow to the offshore printers,” says Sossion

Previously it used to be a case pirated books being of inferior quality as they were being printed by backstreet printers.

Bookshops are naturally the places where people go to buy books and which explains why pirates take their wares there. Njagi explains that to make booksellers play ball they are enticed with generous discounts of up to 60 per cent. “Ordinarily publishers give booksellers a maximum of 35 per cent discount,” he says. “A greedy bookseller will get tempted by the huge discounts given by pirates. A pirate does not incur certain crucial production costs.”

To get an idea why these books are such magnets to pirates you have to understand that at any one time there are roughly 450,000 Form Four candidates each year, in Kenya and who are required to have all these books. Each book is studied over a cycle of four years meaning that by the time the four years are over a publisher will have sold, on average, half a million copies.


The average price of these books is sh450 so we are talking of sh225 million, per book, changing hands. This money is enough to get a would-be pirate salivating. Kakai Karani, who chairs the Anti-Piracy Committee at KPA says modern technology has made it possible for pirates to increase their efficiency. “We have pirates who are producing books that are almost similar to the originals, a thing that makes it quite difficult for the common mwananchi to tell the difference,” he explains.

KPA defines book piracy as the reproduction, by unauthorised persons, of books and other learning materials for sale to the public through bookshops, street vendors and in institutions of learning in contravention of the Copyright Act 2001.

Lawrence Njagi
Lawrence Njagi

To cover-up their tracks, the bookseller with pirated books will order a few genuine books from the publisher, and which will then be prominently displayed on the counters, but whenever an unsuspecting buyer comes asking for the book, they are given the pirated book, which is often hidden out of sight.

Karani blames weak enforcement of the law and lack of awareness on what piracy entails as the reason why the piracy menace is yet to be contained. “We need stricter enforcement of the anti-piracy and anti-counterfeit laws as well as stiffer penalties when these people are apprehended,” he says. He gives the example of the anti-piracy law that provides for a fine of between sh400,000 and sh800,000. “What happens when an offender is caught with books worth sh50 million, as has happened before?” he asks. “That is a mere slap on the wrist.”

Simon Sossion
Simon Sossion

The anti-counterfeit law on the other hand provides for a penalty of three times what a person has been arrested with. “In the case of a bookseller caught with 10 pirated books, they will be fined the cost of 30 books, which is not much either,” says Karani. “That is why we need for book piracy to be elevated to the level of economic crimes, which carries stiffer penalties.”

“There is also the issue of law enforcement agencies that are now aware of what piracy entails and therefore would not know what they are dealing with when they encounter pirated books, which are no different from original books,” he says adding the Kenya Copyright Board has been training police officers attached it. The training, he adds, needs to be expanded to all parts of the country.

Events Issues News Personalities

Kenyan elected to continental publishing body

A Kenyan, Mr. Lawrence Njagi is the new treasurer of African Publishers Network (APNET), the continental body that brings together African publishers from both English and French speaking countries. Mr. Njagi, who apart from being the chairman of the Kenya Publishers Association, is also the managing director of Mountain Top Publishers, was elected for a two year period when APNET’s general council met in Cape Town on the sidelines of the Cape Town Book Fair. Mr. Samuel Kolowale, who heads the Nigeria Publishers Network, was elected as chairman.

The new team also includes Mohamed Radi, from Egypt as vice chair. Members of the council are Mrs Christine Ekue from Togo, Mrs Gaulphine Nyirenda from Malawi, Mr Asare Yemoah Konadu from Ghana and Mr David Kibuuka from Uganda. The new team will be in office for a period of two years. The new team takes over from the previous office held by Brian Wafarowa, from South Africa, who was chairman and Ray Munamwimbu, from Zambia, who was treasurer.