Books Education News publishing

Thieves disable tracking system of van transporting books to Nyamira before stealing it

The tracking system of a truck ferrying textbooks to Nyamira County was interfered with before it was stolen and books dumped in a forest.

The Grade 8 books that were abandoned in Kaptagat forest belong to Moran Publishers.

“Moran Publishers further indicated that the driver of the truck ferrying the books and the truck itself could not be traced. They had tried to reach the driver of the truck without success,” reads a press statement issued by the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA). “They suspect that although the vehicle had a tracking system to enable them know its location and hence that of the books, the system could have been interfered with, since they are not getting any signals.”

 The books were however secured and taken to Kaptagat Police Station.

The incident happened on the morning of Saturday January 20

“The DCI are therefore currently doing investigations to establish the whereabouts of the driver of the truck, trace the truck, and hence shed light on what could have happened,” said the statement signed by Kiarie Kamau, the chairman of KPA.

“KPA (and the affected publisher – Moran) are therefore waiting for updates from the DCI, after which they will know the next course of action,” added the statement. “Meanwhile, KPA wishes to assure the public that the exercise of Grade 8 book distribution is on its tail end, in spite of the heavy rains that continue to pound many parts of the country.”

KPA added that although the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) had given Publishers up to January 19 to complete the distribution, this was not possible, “mainly due to challenges relating to access of the areas heavily affected by the ongoing rains. However, KPA is confident that the exercise will be fully done by 31st January.”

Meanwhile, Moran Publishers wishes to assure head teachers in Nyamira County that despite the unfortunate turn of events affecting their books, they have in place contingency measures to ensure the region receives its share of books on schedule to facilitate normal learning activities.

The Ministry of Education, through KICD, tasks publishers, whose books have been vetted and approved for use by pupils, to deliver them to schools as a way of ensuring a 1:1 ratio of books and pupils.

Events Issues News Personalities

Ng’ang’a Mbugua nominated for Wahome Mutahi Award, Again!

Nganga Mbugua makes history by being nominated for a record fourth time in the Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize with his book Angels of the Wild, published by One Planet.
The winner of this year’s edition of the Wahome Mutahi Prize, administered by the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), will be awarded at the end of the 19th edition of the Nairobi International Book Fair, whose hast tag is #NIBFinspiredtoread.
The first time his book Terrorists of the Aberdare (Big Books) got nominated, in 2010, it went ahead to win the prize, which is awarded on a bi-annual basis. The next time the prize was announce, in 2012, his other book, Different Colours (Big Books) again won the prize.
In 2014, his collection of poetry, This Land is our Land was again nominated and got the first runners-up position, after the top spot was scooped up by surgeon Yusuf Dawood’s The Last Word (Longhorn).

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

This year Ng’ang’a Mbugua’s book has been nominated alongside Anthony Mugo’s Ask the Stars (Longhorn) and Peter Kareithi’s Komu Fights for Change (Longhorn).
KPA also announced the nominees for the Kiswahili category of the Award. They are Mashetani wa Alepo by Tom Olali (Jomo Kenyatta Foundation) Kovu Moyoni by John Habwe (BookMark Africa) and Narejea Nyumbani by Jeff Mandila (Jomo Kenyatta Foundation).
The Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize, now in its sixth edition, was established in 2006, by KPA, in honour of humourist and satirist, the late Wahome Mutahi, who was made popular by his Whispers column, which was published by both the Sunday Nation and Sunday Standard.
Issues News Personalities

Book piracy and the Chinese connection

A few months ago visual artist Michael Soi, based at the Godown Arts Centre in Nairobi, found himself on the receiving end Chinese visit who felt that he was giving their country a bad name in spite of the ‘good things’ China was doing for Africa. The visitors had been in the delegation of the Chinese Prime Minister, who had been a guest of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The bone of contention had to do with China Loves Africa, a series of satirical paintings poking fun at the duplicitous nature of China’s relations with Africa. Far from silencing Soi, the visit must have served as an incentive to spur him on. In his latest piece, China Loves Africa 27, done on September 30, Soi depicts a group of well-suited Chinese ‘gentlemen’ ogling the bikini-clad body of an African pole dancer.

Michael Soi's China Loves Africa #27
Michael Soi’s China Loves Africa #27

The message of Soi’s art is that China is only interested in the ‘fundamentals’ of the African continent depicted as the body of a well-endowed African woman, and that the trade is merely the excuse for raping the continent’s resources. Africa is depicted in the unflattering light of a woman of easy virtue, hawking her ‘products’ to the highest bidder.

Conservationists have for some time now been complaining that China’s gigantic appetite for animal trophies is responsible for the dwindling population of wildlife in the country, especially elephants and rhinos. Publishers have now entered the fray and without mincing words are accusing the Asian giant of abetting Intellectual Property (IP) crimes by allowing pirates to print their books in China without carrying out due diligence.

Publishers under their umbrella body the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) say that if the government does not check the activities of book pirates, the publishing industry, as we know it will be brought to its knees. Piracy is slowly but surely proving to be a publisher’s worst nightmare. Pirates target the fast moving books, print them illegally and flood them in the market at throw away prices, thus undercutting the original publishers.

Today, pirates are not only targeting the fast selling books but are also picking on any book that is guaranteed even modest sales and having them printed offshore, with China and India being the most preferred locations.

Publishers have for the longest time been howling in the wind with no one to listen to them. However things were different on Saturday September 27, when none other than the Attorney General graced the Wahome Mutahi Prize gala night, which is organised by KPA.

Seizing the occasion, Lawrence Njagi, the chair of KPA told Prof Githu Muigai how book pirates are threatening to wipe out the gains Kenyan publishers have made over the years. “If pirates are not stopped in their tracks in future we might not be able to congregate here to celebrate the efforts of writers,” he said.

Njagi urged the AG to oversee the crafting of stiffer penalties aimed at deterring Pirates once and for all. He called for the empowerment of the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) such that it is mandated to clear all educational materials, including book, being imported into the country. “That way it will be easier to know who is bringing in what into the country,” he explained. “Pirates will think twice before shipping their containers of pirated books.”

Kakai Karani, who heads the anti-piracy committee at KPA, urged the AG to ensure that IP Crimes are elevated to the more serious economic crimes. “The current sh800,000 slapped on pirates is small potatoes to the big pirates who might have shipped in books worthy more than sh5 million,” noted Karani.

And the AG, flanked KPA chair Lawrence Njagi (Left) and Musyoki Muli of Longhorn did a small jig...
And the AG, flanked KPA chair Lawrence Njagi (Left) and Musyoki Muli of Longhorn did a little jig…

They must have been preaching to the converted for the AG promised to “fight the pirates living off your sweat.” He touched of the small matter of rebasing the economy – which had by then not been formally implemented – and explained that the intellectual property sector which previously not been factored in economic projections was now one of the pillars of the economy that catapulted Kenya to middle income status.

“I know, only too well, the heartbreak of having to stare at a blank screen for hours,” said the AG as he revealed that he has been attempting to write a fictional short story for the last ten or so years without success.

The import of his statement was that matters that affect the IP sector, like piracy, will be dealt with with the seriousness they deserve. No one wants Kenya slipping back to the low income strata.






Events Issues News

And the nominees are…

Following the announcement, by the Kenya Publishers Association, that they have increased the prize money from Sh40,000 to Sh150,000 maisha yetu is proud to announce the nominees for this year’s Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature. The judging panel, chaired by Prof Henry Indagasi, of the University of Nairobi, announced the list of nominees as follows: For the adult English category, the nominees are Hawecha, (Longhorn) by Rhodia Mann, Blossoms of the Savannah (Longhorn) by H.R. Ole Kulet and The Big Chiefs (EAEP) by Meja Mwangi. In the Adult Kiswahili category, the nominees are Kala Tufaha (Phoenix) by Babu Omar, Vipanya Vya Maabara (JKF) by Mwendah Mbatiah and Unaitwa Nani (Wide Muwa) by Kyalo Wamitila. Nominees in the English Youth Category are Lake of Smoke (Phoenix) by Juliet Barnes and Walk with me Angela (KLB) by Stephen Mugambi. In the Kiswahili Children’s category nominees are Ngoma za Uchawi (KLB) by Atibu Bakari, Kisasi Hapana (OUP) by Ken Walibora and Sitaki Iwe Siri (Longhorn) by Bitugi Matundura. Nominees in the Children English category are A Mule Called Christmas (Phoenix) by Nyambura Mpesha, The Prize (OUP) by Elizabeth Kabui and On the Run (OUP) by Mwaura Muigania. Winners in both adult categories will win the improved prize money of Sh150,000, while winner in the Youth and Children’s categories will each pocket Sh75,000. The winners will be announced on Saturday, September 26 at Avalon Restaurant along Riverside Drive


KPA’s end of year party

Friday December 7 was a very special day for me and this blog. This is the day that Pulse, the increasingly popular youth/entertaining magazine that comes out every Friday in the Standard, reproduced a review I had ran on Tony Mochama’s poetry book What If I am a Literary Gangster. The piece was treated as Special Edition in the Scene at column.
This was also the day that Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), through Lillian Inziani, invited me to their end of year luncheon held at the posh Nairobi Club. I checked in some minutes past one sufficiently hungry for the spread the ever resourceful Lillian had in store for us.
The first person I saw at the venue was OUP’s PR chief Esther Kantai, in the company of their marketing director John Kiarie and Kiswahili editor Hassan Said, who was appropriately dressed in a Kanzu, being a Friday.
The place was still in the process of being laid out but KPA chair Mrs Nancy Karimi, looking regal, (JKF MD) was already there, so was Eve Obara of KLB, a KPA council member. This was going to be an open-air function, as opposed to the closed-door affairs of previous years. Lillian, the KPA executive officer could be seen running around, obviously making sure that everything was in order.
I took a seat at the far left corner, directly facing the buffet table, where else! Soon, and in quick succession, I was joined by Treza Kinoru, EAEP’s PR girl, Brenda Anjuri, OUP’s production manager and Mary Mbuthia Macmillan’s Marketing manager. Clearly, I was not doing badly, what with all those beauties surrounding me. There was also Henry Munene, an editor at EAEP. Munene in Kikuyu means big, and clearly he is not exactly small! Gabriel Maina, the cool Savanis’ Marketing manager completed the picture.
Much later we were joined by Musyoki Muli, the Sasa Sema boss at Longhorn. Muli also turned out to be the event’s emcee, and he really did a good job of it. Next table sat Kiarie Kamau (KK) the quiet but highly effective editorial manager at EAEP, looking sharp like a pin. (he introduced himself only as editor. Kwanini unacheza na madaraka KK?) Louisa Kadzo, an editor at EAEP and the indefatigable one-man publishing machine Malkiat Sighn himself.
Behind me sat two other very tough publishing gurus, Simon Sossion of Longhorn and Muthui Kiboi of Focus. I gather they were in KU together. They must have been reliving some nostalgic college days.
Lawrence Njagi, the MD of Mountain Top later stepped in majestically in the company of his lovely wife and planted themselves at the high table. June Wanjiru, the marketing manager at Kwani? Completed the picture at the high table, which also had Jimna Mbaru, the NSE boss, who was the chief guest.
On the other side I could see beautiful Beatrice Nugi of Longhorn, as well as Peter Nyoro of Longman. Murori Kiunga of Queenex Holdings was also in the house. The trio of Paul Karaimu, Anne Mutua and Catherine Muraguri, had ably represented WordAlive Publishers, I wonder where their boss David Waweru was.
Once everyone was settled Mrs Karimi gave her speech, which highlighted the achievements KPA had chalked up in the year, which included the holding of a successful tenth Nairobi International Book Fair, and challenged publishers to aim for bigger things in the coming year.
It was now the time for Jimnah Mbaru to give his keynote address, which went on well, save from the little hitch of his Powerpoint presentation which most of us could not see because of too much light. He explained to those gathered what the NSE is all about and the various ways people can make money there.
Touching on the sensitive issue of Kenya’s sorry reading culture, Mbaru explained this could be due to the unfortunate culture among Kenyans who claim to have “finished” school after attaining a certain level of education, thereby putting an end to reading. Giving his own example, where he enrolled for a Law degree at the University of Nairobi, when he was in his fifties, he stressed that reading is a life-long commitment.
He challenged publishers to get out of the cocoon of text book publishing and embrace general publishing. He gave the example of the West where publishers encourage well known public figures to write books, as they are guaranteed sales.
Was it an oversight that he forgot to mention that he has a book out published by EAEP? Well…
Finally Mbaru asked publishers to have themselves listed in the NSE, as they would raise their profiles that way. A publisher’s IPO anyone?
Too bad Mbaru had to leave before he could partake of what Lillian had on the buffet table for us. A busy man, he had to rush to another function – Things that billionaires do that we don’t. Hmm I guess I will be skipping lunches more often in order to emulate Mbaru… just kidding.
Anyway, the best part of the day was soon here with us and Muli invited members of the high table to sample that buffet delights before everyone. Apparently, Muli who kept using sayings and proverbs in his presentation, has never heard of this one: Charity begins at home! He should have started with our table, where he was also seated! He he
Anyway I digress. After putting away a plate full – I stress the word full – it was time for introductions, and I realised that people in the publishing industry do not know each other! Which is a shame really. Lillian should work at bringing the publishing fraternity together more often, possibly in the evenings, where people can mingle over a drink. It is only natural. As the function came to a close Kakai Karani, the MD of Longman cornered me and accused me of being biased against his company! He only let me go after extracting a promise from me that I would write a comprehensive review of their book Poems Aplently. In my other life I work as newspaper book reviewer. Now you understand why I was invited to a publishers’ bash.
As we were leaving, Njagi and his wife were kind enough to give me a ride in their cream Mercedes. But do I say?
UPDATE: I am reliably informed that KPA’s website was supposed to be launched during the lancheon. We never got to hear a word of it. Lillian what happened?