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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.

Events News

What to expect at the Nairobi International Book Fair

In case you have forgotten, the 13th Nairobi International Book Fair is still on at the Sarit Centre Expo Centrer will run up to Sunday September 26. So make a point of making an appearance there.

Mr Lawrence Njagi, the chairman of the Book Fair say that this year, the have received a record number of foreign exhibitors “We have about 20 foreign exhibitors at this year’s Fair. There are exhibitors from India, UK, USA, Nigeria, Senegal and Netherlands, among others. This is a testament to the growing international status of the Fair,” explains Mr Njagi.
Among the key attractions of the Fair includes the Budding authors seminar taking place tomorrow between 9 am to 4 pm. The seminar brings together up and coming writers who receive writing tips from professionals in the industry.
People looking to enrich their libraries or bookshops should visit the Fair on Saturday September 25, whereby publishers will be auctioning books. “People should come expecting to buy books at discounted rates of up to 50 per cent,” says Mr James Odhiambo the executive secretary of Kenya Publishers Association, the organisers of the Book Fair.
There will also be a special performance dedicated to the late Dr Ezekiel Alembi, who apart from being a published author, used to coordinate children’s activities during the Book Fair. The Alembi Hour is on Saturday between 11 am and midday.
The climax of the Book Fair is the awarding of the third edition of the Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize, on Saturday evening at the Nairobi Club.

Events Issues News Personalities

Nairobi International Book Fair will blow you mind away

The Annual Nairobi International Book Fair, now in its 13th edition is set to take place from September 22 to 26, at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi. Maishayetu spoke to Mr Lawrence Njagi, the chairman of the Book Fair on what is in store for book lovers. Mr Njagi is also the managing director of Mountain Top Publishers.

Mr. Lawrence Njagi

Maishayetu: What does the 13th Nairobi International Book Fair (NIBF) have in store for potential visitors this year?
Lawrence Njagi: As the premier book show in the East African region visitors should come to the book fair expecting to see the best that the region has to offer in terms of books. This means that visitors should be able to interact with these books under one roof, and in a relaxed atmosphere, without being hassled by salespeople.
This is also about the only opportunity that book lovers are able to meet and interact with their favourite authors. What is more, these books are offered at highly discounted rates. This means that bookshops and libraries should take advantage of this offer to stock up. We will also be conducting seminars and workshops on relevant topics like intellectual property rights and digital publishing. Aspiring writers will also benefit from a seminar on how to successfully get published.
All in all, all visitors to the NIBF, from children, the youth and grownups should come to the Fair in the knowledge that their needs will be adequately catered for.
Q: You have been chairman of the NIBF for the last three years now, what have been your achievements so far?
A: When I took over as chairman of NIBF, the average number of visitors to the Fair was 6,000, by last year that number had risen to 17,000. We expect more visitors this year. Two years in a row, all the stands have been fully booked, and the demand for stands is growing. This means increased revenue for NIBF.
This year, we are having the largest number of international exhibitors at the Fair; five from India, two from Nigeria, one each from Senegal, China and Ethiopia. Of course we have the usual exhibitors from Uganda and Tanzania. This is not forgetting other international visitors who are not necessarily exhibitors. This is thanks to the aggressive marketing campaign, we have put in place.
In addition we now publish a free-to-distribute magazine which gives readers relevant information on the book industry.
Q: Kenyan publishers have been accused of being too textbook-oriented and therefore neglecting creative writing.
A: Before you heap all the blame on publishers, it is good to take a look at the bigger picture. A closer look at the system of education in Kenya reveals that it is too exam oriented; therefore putting to much pressure the student to pass exams at all costs. That rigid culture leaves little room for leisure reading, hence the reason many Kenyans don’t see the need to read after they are through with official schooling.
Q: Aren’t publishers contributing to the problem then?
A: First of all you have to understand that publishers are first and foremost business people looking to make maximum returns, and there is no denying the fact that textbooks provide a good source of profits to publishers. But we also have a moral duty to serve the emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs of readers, and that is where non-textbooks like motivational and fiction fall. All we are saying is that the government needs to put in place policies that encourage leisure reading, a good starting point would be an overhaul of the current system of education.
Q: Still, that does not take away the fact that publishers do not market non-textbook materials well…
A: Let me say that when a book is not well marketed, both the publisher and author suffers as both have invested heavily in the publication. This is therefore a call to publishers to cast their net wider as far as marketing their books are concerned. Let publishers make use of all forms of media, print, electronic, the Internet even, to make noise about the availability of their books. In addition to bookshops, we at Mountain Top sell our books in all major supermarkets around the country. Authors too should come up with ideas on how well to market their books.
Q: You mentioned a seminar on digital publishing, are Kenyan publishers ready to embrace this new technology?
A: Publishers need to be dynamic and be able to embrace new technology as it comes along. However, the reality is such that majority of Kenyans still do not have access to electricity, and thus computers are out of reach for many. Stil, there is a generation of Kenyans that is quite well versed in digital technology and these ones have to be taken care of as well.