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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.

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Why Kiyiapi’s presence at the Nairobi International Book Fair means so much to Kenyan publishers

Kenya’s Education Permanent Secretary Prof James ole Kiyiapi will, on Thursday, September 23 preside over the official opening of the 13th edition of the Nairobi International Book Fair, at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi.

The very fact that Prof Kiyiapi has agreed to officiate at the event is not lost to players in the publishing industry. This can be translated as a sign of improving relations between Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), the organisers of the book fair and the Ministry of Education, based at Jogoo House in Nairobi.

Relations between publishers and Jogoo House had deteriorated to an all-time low, with publishers complaining that former a Prof Karega Mutahi, the immediate former Education PS, was arrogant and high handed.

Publishers however had their last laugh after Prof Mutahi was caught up in a maelstrom of corruption allegations, over textbook funds, and was suspended by President Kibaki, following sustained pressure from the public, donors and civil society.

To say that publishers breathed a sigh of relief would be an understatement as textbooks are the bread and butter of a majority of Kenyan publishers. If money meant for school books was being misappropriated, then it meant that publishers were unable to make ends meets.

At some point publishers were heard complaining that Jogoo House was getting too chummy with booksellers, falling over themselves to fulfill the whims of booksellers while publishers looked on green-eyed.

A case in point was when ministry officials allowed booksellers to publish names of booksellers cleared to sell books under the Free Primary Education (FPE) in the Orange book. All this was done behind the backs of publishers.

Thus when Prof Kiyiapi was moved from Medical Services to Education ministry, publishers made the earliest efforts of being seen to be in his good books. At a recent meeting between the publishers and the PS, publishers asked him to consider removing the six-book ceiling on books approved to be used in public schools.

Under the six-book ceiling public schools can only chose from a list of six books per subject. This means that even if ten books have met the required standard by KIE, only six books would pass. The rest would either go to waste or publishers would be forced to market them to private schools. Publishers are not known to be very good marketers.

This means that publishers whose books were not approved incurred heavy losses.

It is understood that at the meeting, the PS promised to look at the issue and was in agreement with publishers that the six-book ceiling needs to be done away with.

It now remains to be seen whether the ministry will effect the removal of the offending six-book ceiling.

Back to the school books scandal. The effect of schools failing to get funds for buying books meant that revenues for publishers were not getting money for books they had already published and thus their revenues severely affected.

The result is that publishers found themselves in dire financial circumstances and most were forced to retrench their staff.

The 13th Nairobi International Book Fair is therefore being held against a backdrop of declining business on the part of publishers. This is evidenced by the fact that there will be very few new books being launched this time round.

And that is why Prof Kiyiapi’s presence at the Book Fair is viewed as a major victory for publishers.