The Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) has identified Nakuru County as a melting point of book piracy in Kenya, a vice that KPA says is denying the country’s publishers up to 40 percent of the market share.
According to the association, school textbooks are the biggest target as they make up to 90 per cent of Kenya’s book market, and their sales are virtually guaranteed.
KPA Chairman Mr. Kiarie Kamau expressed regret that in many cases, pirated books are sold at the same price as the original versions, as few buyers can spot a fake, adding that counterfeited books not only cause publishers to incur heavy losses but also compromise the quality of education.
Kamau said some of the pirated books contain errors that occur during scanning of the original copies thereby misleading learners. Some of the books have contents crammed from old editions which are encased in covers of current editions, he warned.
“The books also have poor binding and print quality. The text is illegible and unfriendly to the learners. The growing menace is resulting in the loss of employment for most professionals in the book publishing industry,” he said.
Speaking in Nakuru during the launch of Kenya Literature Bureau’s Grade 4, 5 and 6 Competency Based Curriculum Encyclopedia, the chairman expressed concern that illegal books flooding most parts of the country were creating a string of losses in the book supply chain.
“Most people think publishing amounts only to printing. Publishing is a vast investment in content creation, editorial work, engaging book designers, warehousing, marketing, legal and financial aspects,” explained Kamau.
He added: “Furthermore, the government loses value added tax on untraceable book sales, while honest distributors and bookshops suffer on low sales and, needless to say, authors lose out on royalties.”
The event was graced by Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB) Chief Executive Officer Dr Victor Lomaria and Rift Valley Regional Director of Education, Jared Obiero.
Kamau noted that a few cases of the fakes, mostly school textbooks illegally published overseas, being of even better quality than the genuine publications have been reported suggesting that well-funded cartels were part of the hidden hand in book piracy.
He stated that an antipiracy campaign launched by the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), the Kenya Copyright Board in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, the Anti-counterfeit Agency and the Kenya police was ongoing.
The KPA chairman advised parents to buy books from dealers who have electronic tax register receipts as this will keep the fraudsters out of business. He said that KPA introduced security features which help schools and parents ascertain the authenticity of books.
“It is similar to what is used on airtime scratch cards. A buyer only scratches to reveal the book’s serial number then sends the code to a toll-free number,” Kamau explained.
Dr Lomaria observed that besides disrupting the publishing industry, piracy was also hurting Kenya’s knowledge base.
“Piracy discourages authors who want to make contributions to society through writing books as their knowledge is lost to the rest of us. At KLB we are coming up with security features (organograms) which are embedded in the book seal. We are also asking the government to write to all schools requiring them to buy books from shops which give them electronic tax register receipts,” he said.
He noted that since pirates mostly scan pages of genuine printed books, they usually missed a page or even mixed pages from different titles.
“At other times, pirates print older versions of book titles that publishers have already revised to respond to needs of teachers and pupils/students,” warned the CEO.
Dr Lomaria stated that KLB’s Grade 4, 5 and 6 Competency Based Curriculum Encyclopedia content had been regulated by the government on technical specifications through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to conform to the new curriculum.
While indicating that a vibrant publishing industry is not only good for the economy but also as a custodian of Kenyan culture, the Rift Valley Regional Director of Education said the Ministry was promoting public awareness to ensure that the public opens its collective eye when buying books and reports any suspicious activities to government authorities.
Mr Obiero affirmed that the government had put in place mechanisms that guarantee that learners in both public and private learning institutions received the correct learning materials.
“One of the simplest solutions is to buy books from bona fide bookshops and not from briefcase booksellers without a fixed address. Piracy kills creativity and jeopardizes the future of our young learners,” he observed.
In the digital age, Mr Obiero pointed out that piracy has evolved and copying has been made easier. Electronic files he stated can be created and spread over the Internet in a relatively short period of time.
By Anne Mwale