The future of digital publishing in Kenya

October 15, 2013
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Ask any budding author, getting your work published in any local publishing house, is near impossible. Many authors have had their dreams dashed by the strict publishing rules that exist with the companies.

Publishing houses on the other hand, face huge costs in editing, publishing, printing and marketing books which do not sell much. The publishing houses also have to contend with the shrinking hard book market for novels and recreation materials.

But a new trend is leasing out life to authors and to the publishing industry in Kenya. Digital publishing is becoming more common with few publishing houses embracing the trend even though with caution.

The improvement of technical devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and ereaders, has made the reality of accessing the print works through digital means a closer reality than we could imagine.

Storymoja Africa is one company that is taking the ePublishing seriously. The company believes there is a future of ePublishing for the country and even the continent.

Alex Kandie, a Senior Editor at Storymoja Africa seems to lean on the fact that ebooks is the way to go in Kenya. With 22 books on Amazon and over 1,100 ebooks sold between January and March this year, the company is breaking ground in the new industry.

“In my experience, avid readers who have numerous books are the ones who embrace digital technology, like the Amazon Kindle, quickly. This is due to space implications and the convenience of having a book with them all the time. If they have a busy lifestyle that includes lots of travel then the push towards digital books is even easier for them to succumb to,” Kandie told UP Magazine.

Kandie also points to the fact that the mobile phone has taken over the country and it is with this gadget that ebooks will flourish, regardless of the availability of ereaders.

“Money does not discourage those with smartphones from accessing this service. For example, I have a Windows phone and have downloaded the free Amazon Kindle app. Here, I have the full services of the Kindle without having to buy the gadget,” Kandie added.

World Reader is a platform that has taken advantage of the mobile phone and reaching over 500,000 of novel readers through feature phone applications in Africa alone. Through this applications feature phone owners can read thousand of books without downloading on their phones.

Storymoja Africa is also readying itself to launch a series of novels that will be available through the phones in Kenya.

“As a matter of fact, Storymoja will be launching a romance series dubbed ‘Drumbeats’. The uniqueness of this series is that it will be available as a downloadable format on mobile, including other formats,” Kandie says.

The new digital publishing phenomenon is also taking over independent publishers who are trooping to the internet to realize their dreams.

The new kindle costs $70 with anti-glare and in built Wi-Fi can store up to 1,000 books.
The new kindle costs $70 with anti-glare and in built Wi-Fi can store up to 1,000 books.

When Patricia Miswa wanted to transform her blog into a magazine, she faced a huge challenge getting her work published mainly due to high cost of production. All she was equipped with was her dream and drive to realize the first issue of her magazine, AfroElleMagazine.com which was aimed to promote the women with African heritage globally.

After searching high and low, Patricia landed on an online tool that could enable her to publish her first edition. In May 2011, her new digital publication was born and it did not cost her a dime. Now she celebrates having over 2,000 readers access her free editions.

Patricia is one of the growing numbers of publishers who are making headways in a new way of publishing. Digital edition of books, newspapers and magazines are becoming common as the global trend embraces technology.

“I chose digital publishing because I was really curious and when I decided to turn The Ladies Room blog into a magazine, I did my research on the options available and read about the whole ‘publishing renaissance’ and how print was dead (which I don’t believe is entirely true). But with all the new technologies, I wanted embrace change and get with the program,” Patricia says.

Patricia uses Issuu.com, free software to publish and distribute her eCopies to her readers who are spread as far as US, UK, Australia, France, Canada and Germany.

Other solutions such as Lulu.com offer Print On Demand services (POD), that assist authors to only print books that have been ordered, hence eliminating the need for storage and high printing costs. Authors can even fundraise from their friends on their upcoming publications through new platforms such as Wattpad.com

As the wind of change blows across the literature scene in Kenya and indeed in Africa, maybe you won’t have to check in to a bookstore for your next read. Just thumb one in from your smartphone.

 

By Vincent Matinde

@matinde

Tech Blogger

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