NAKURU, Kenya, June 5 – The Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) has identified Nakuru County as the melting point of book piracy in Kenya, a vice which the KPA says is robbing publishers in the country of up to 40% market share.
According to the association, textbooks are the main target as they account for up to 90% of the book market in Kenya and their sales are virtually guaranteed.
KPA Chairman Mr. Kiarie Kamau regretted that in many cases pirated books are sold at the same price as the original versions because few buyers can spot a fake, adding that counterfeit books not only lead heavy losses for publishers, but also compromise the quality of education.
Kamau said some of the pirated books contain errors that occur when scanning the original copies, thereby misleading learners. Some of the books have content stuffed with old editions that are enclosed in covers of current editions, he warned.
“The books also have poor binding and printing quality. The text is illegible and unfriendly to learners. The growing threat is leading to loss of jobs for most professionals in the book publishing industry,” he said.
Speaking in Nakuru at the launch of the Literature Bureau of Kenya’s competency-based curriculum encyclopaedia, the president expressed concern that illegal books flooding most parts of the country were creating a series losses in the book supply chain.
“Most people think of publishing as printing. Publishing is a vast investment in content creation, editorial work, engagement of book designers, warehousing, marketing, legal and financial aspects,” Kamau explained.
He added, “Furthermore, the government loses value added tax on sales of untraceable books, while honest distributors and bookstores suffer from low sales and, needless to say, authors lose royalties.”
The event was graced by the Director General of the Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB), Dr. Victor Lomaria, and the Rift Valley Regional Director of Education, Jared Obiero.
Kamau noted that a few cases of counterfeiting, mostly schoolbooks illegally published overseas, of even better quality than genuine publications, have been reported, suggesting that well-funded cartels were part of the hidden hand of the book piracy.
He said that an anti-piracy campaign launched by the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), the Kenya Copyright Board in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, the Anti-counterfeit Agency and the Kenyan police were in progress.
The KPA chairman advised parents to buy books from dealers who have electronic tax register receipts as this will prevent fraudsters from doing business. He said KPA has introduced security features that help schools and parents verify the authenticity of books.
“It’s similar to what’s used on airtime scratch cards. A buyer just scratches to reveal the serial number of the book, then sends the code to a toll-free number,” Kamau explained. .
Dr. Lomaria observed that in addition to disrupting the publishing industry, piracy also harms Kenya’s knowledge base.
“Piracy discourages authors who want to contribute to society by writing books, because their knowledge is lost to the rest of us. At KLB, we offer security elements (flow charts) that are integrated into the seal of the book. We are also asking the government to write to all schools asking them to buy books from stores that give them electronic tax register receipts,” he said.
He noted that since pirates mainly scan pages from genuine printed books, they usually miss a page or even mixed pages of different titles.
“At other times, pirates print older versions of book titles that publishers have already revised to meet the needs of teachers and pupils/students,” the CEO warned.
Dr Lomaria said the content of the KLB Grade 4, 5 and 6 Competency Based Curriculum Encyclopedia has been regulated by the government on technical specifications through the Kenya Institute of Labor Development. program (KICD) to comply with the new program.
Stating that a vibrant publishing industry is not only good for the economy but also as a guardian of Kenyan culture, the Rift Valley Regional Education Director said the ministry promoted public awareness to ensure that the public open their collective eyes when buying books and report suspicious activity to government authorities.
Obiero said the government has put in place mechanisms to ensure that learners in public and private education institutions are provided with the right learning materials.
“One of the simplest solutions is to buy books from bona fide bookstores and not from briefcase booksellers with no fixed address. Hacking kills creativity and jeopardizes the future of our young learners,” he observed.
In the digital age, Obiero pointed out that piracy has evolved and copying has become easier. According to him, electronic files can be created and disseminated on the Internet in a relatively short time.