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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
S.K. Macharia is a household name in Kenya today. If there is one word that can sufficiently describe the man, then that word is tenacity. Here is one man who decided that he was going to build a media empire and went ahead to build one.
His dream, Royal Media Services, was hatched during the reign of retired President Moi. Those who know how Moi operated will tell you that it was the very wrong time to establish a media outfit, especially for a man who was perceived to be anti-establishment.
At one point Macharia’s broadcasting equipment were seized by the State, thereby switching the fledgling Citizen TV off air. This was not enough to deter SK, as he is known to many. Come 2002, Citizen TV had become so popular among ordinary Kenyans that it became the official mouthpiece of the Narc campaign, which was to send the then ruling party Kanu, packing.
The State broadcaster, KBC, which was being used by the government to relay Kanu propaganda, had lost the trust of Kenyans. It has yet to recover.
Despite a minor blip when the ODM juggernaut perceived the station to be pro Kibaki’s Banana wing in the campaigns for the constitutional referendum, in 2005, Citizen TV is the channel with the highest ratings in Kenya today.
You will also recall that incident when after Patrick Quarco’s Radio Africa poached a number of radio announcers from Royal Media’s Citizen Radio. What happened after that? Frequencies for Radio Africa’s stations, namely, Kiss and Classic were severely tampered with, leading to Radio Africa lodging a complaint with the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). It was alleged that Macharia and Citizen were behind the whole mess.
You should also bear in mind that SK has the memory of an elephant; he does not forget it if you cross his paths. He has a reputation of being a tenacious litigant. If you doubt me, ask retired President Moi and most recently Justice Martha Koome. SK, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday, is also reputed to be very faithful to his friends, and that is why you will find a number of people in his companies, whose sole reason for earning a pay check is their friendship to SK.
In short, what I am trying to say is that SK’s life is quite colourful, and would make for great reading. And that is precisely why Moran Publishers are set to release his autobiography, aptly titled Tenacious Courage. David Muita, the managing director of Moran Publishers says the book should be released to the public by the end of the month.
“Readers should brace themselves for a very interesting book,” says Muita. “First and foremost SK is a very inspirational figure both to the young people and aspiring businesspeople.” And for the young ones Moran will be releasing a junior edition of the book at a later date.
With the release of SK’s book, one thing is clear though, it is going to be a major talking point, especially now that the country is caught up in the throes of next year’s watershed elections.
We predict that a few people will threaten to go to court. Yes, it is that explosive!