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IS NIGERIA READY FOR THE eBOOK REVOLUTION?

27 Apr 2013

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EKENYERENGOZI MICHAEL CHIMA, WRITER, PLAYWRIGHT, BLOGGER, ETC (I CALL HIM MR. EVERYTHING WRITING) WROTE THIS INSIGHTFUL PIECE. HE WORKS AND LIVES IN LAGOS.

Ebooks are not popular among writers and readers in Nigeria and the rest of Africa even though millions of people have been using emails over the years and now engaging in daily conversations on popular social network sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Yet majority of them are still living according to the standards of the last century, writing long hand and either paying for word processing or slowly doing so themselves on their desktops or laptops, except for the African writers based in the U.S., UK and other developed societies who have to use the tools their peers are using in the 21st century. South Africa that is ahead of Nigeria and other African countries in using smart phones and tablets only got her first ebook store on http://www.kalahari.com/ in 2010, but the ebooks are overpriced. 


Again generally, from South Africa to Nigeria, the two main challenges of ebooks are; low level of bandwidth and the low capacity of the data cables making the access to broadband expensive and unavailable to the majority of the populations. But in spite of the low internet penetration in Africa, there is only one choice left for the majority who are still crawling and lagging behind, if we cannot beat them, we have to join them. And that is why I give thumbs up to David Risher who has launched Worldreader to take “1 million e-books to children in the largely English-speaking countries of Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya” and has raised a total to $1.5 million to fund his digital literature revolution in sub-Saharan Africa.


The future of publishing is going to be ruled by indie publishing as writers have access to the tools of publishing themselves online regardless of the reactionary objections of traditional publishers and some egocentric old fashioned authors of the mainstream publishing industry. But as noted by David Vinjamuri, the emergence of ebooks has eliminated the shortcomings and pitfalls of traditional publishing such as having heaps of unsold copies of printed books in paperback and hard cover. 


Amazon.com reported selling more ebooks than physical books in the U.S. and U.K with many bestselling authors of paperback and hardcover editions also releasing the ebook versions of their books on Amazon’s  Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, because people are now reading more ebooks than physical books, because with their eReaders they can buy and save more books on a single handheld mobile device instead of looking for space for them in a luggage while traveling. The ebooks revolution has become so overwhelming that the New York Times Best-sellers List now includes Ebooks. But we are still either crawling or lagging behind in Africa, because of various constraints of which the most glaring is poverty.


The cheering news that millions of people are now using mobile phones in Africa is exciting for mass literacy campaigns, but the masses are not reading as much as they are talking and many commentaries and debates lamented the poor reading culture among Nigerians and other Africans in Africa where nobody cares about the New York Times Reviews and unsold or pirated copies of the so called best-sellers are hawked on the streets of Lagos and Accra for as low as $1 per copy before they get dumped as unsold goods. Even though over 100 million people use mobile phones in Nigeria, only a fraction of them are smart phones or tablets with eReaders, because they are unaffordable to majority of the people who live below $2 per day. Moreover, those who complain about the poor reading culture seem to forget that Nigerian literature is largely based on our oral culture before the advent of English Literature in the South around the 17th century and Arabic Literature in the North in the 15th century. So, if the majority of Nigerians prefer talking to reading, they are only expressing themselves in their best medium of communication of our traditional oral culture.


In fact, audio books may be more accepted and appreciated than printed books and ebooks and I am considering producing audio versions of my book that those who don’t have time to read can simply play and listen to my stories as I am already doing on blogs with audio plug-ins.


Among the few Nigerian authors using the latest tools of mass communication available on the internet, I have explored all the opportunities and possibilities available to my peers in America, England and other developed nations; using the applications of the social media come with many benefits of which the most important is social connection with your readers. You can now interact with them on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and other social networks.


As David Vinjamuri quoted Bidinotto, a former journalist: Social media has been the great equalizer of advertising, promotion and marketing. This is essentially asymmetrical warfare.  No customer going to Amazon knows what is traditionally published or independently published – and they don’t care.  They’re interested in an experience that will educate or entertain them.  Social Media allow the individual author to become a personality and establish real emotional bonds with his readers.  I happen to really like my readers and I deal with them online all the time.  By using social media to become a personality to my readers, I have not spent one nickel in paid advertising – and I haven’t had to.


The most engaging platform for me is blogging which I started using since 2005. It has been a remarkable success because, among other things, I use applications such as using reddit, StumbledUpon, Delicious, Digg, Technorati and pinging services, and also joining Blog Critics, Gather, Red Room, Shoovng, Yahoo Voices, Huffington Post, etc.
I have been able to reach millions of readers through these websites and that is more than enough success for any writer. I have helped to literally drag two of them into blogging and one of them has made fame and fortune out of it.


I must confess that I was scared of self-publishing, because of the discrimination against the vanity press by traditional publishers and I learnt that the New York Times editors snub self-published books. So, I preferred the treadmill of traditional publishing with all the rejection slips until got my first book “Children of Heaven” published traditionally in 1988. I only became an indie author in 2006 when I used the Print On Demand (POD) self publishing company Lulu, but I paid for the professional book design from front cover to back cover to make sure that the book “Scarlet Tears of London”, my second collection of poems was well published. So, POD self publishing can be as good as standard traditional publishing if the writer wants the same quality and respect given by traditional publishers. I advise every writer who wants to be self-published to make sure that the book is well written, well edited and well designed before publishing and releasing it to avoid the embarrassment of unnecessary grammatical and typographical errors and substandard printing.


Even though we are yet to have our own best selling success stories on ebooks in Africa, I am still motivated by the remarkable success stories of some self published authors like Amanda Hocking who wrote 17 teen supernatural suspense novels in her spare time and then self-published them until she hit the jackpot and signed a $2 million deal with St. Martins Press. John Locke sold over two million copies of his indie books before signing a limited deal with Simon & Schuster to get physical distribution for some of his novel. E.L. James wrote the precursor to “Fifty Shades of Grey” online as fan fiction and self-published it on her own website before Vintage acquired it. And she was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people for 2012.

WHO DOES GOD SAY WE ARE?: THE LATE STARTERS CLUB

AS A MEMBER OF THIS CLUB, I HAVE BEEN READING THE EXPERIENCE OF OTHERS. WOULD YOU BELIEVE THAT LEONARDO DA VINCI WAS A FAILURE AT THE AGE OF 43? READERS WHO WERE LATER STARTERS BECAUSE OF DEBILITATING ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS (LIKE MY CASE) OR DERAILMENT CAUSED BY WRONG CHOICES ARE FREE TO SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCE HERE.

At 43, Leonardo da Vinci was a ‘nobody’ as they say it in Nigeria. The man recognised as one of history’s greatest artists and a genius had tried his hands at many things but failed. He was a failure. Yet, in many ways, his life largely was the record of failure.


According to popular biographer, Ross King, Leonardo had hoped to find work as an architect, but “his wooden model for a domed tower for Milan’s half-built cathedral was rejected.” He tried to get the job of designing and casting the bronze doors for Piacenza Cathedral, but received no response.


He also drew up detailed plan to redevelop the city of Milan, “not a single part of this plan was ever adopted or constructed.” He designed many military weapons, but these remained largely undeveloped; he was commissioned to sculpt a massive bronze statue, yet it was never completed, despite years of labor.


Leonardo’s breakthrough came when he was commissioned to paint a “Last Supper” scene in the refectory of Santa Marie delle Grazie. He begun the work in early  1495, as a French army rolled through Italy.


The account goes on to say that after many years at the court of Lodovico Sforza, Leonardo was at a low point personally and professionally. He had reached the age of 43 without having completed a major work that fulfilled his astonishing promise. The latest in his chain of failures was a giant bronze horse to honour Lodovico Sforza’s father. After he had spent the better part of a decade planning the monumental sculpture, his 75 tons of bronze were expropriated to be turned into cannon to help repel the French invasion.


When The Last Supper was completed, it became clear that he was an extraordinary artistic genius. He succeeded despite his frustration because of his persistence and in defiance of his age.
Despite his age, and being frustrated by war and political turmoil, and beset by his own insecurities and logistical difficulties, Leonardo created a masterpiece that would forever define his reputation.

Tags: Life and Style, MICHAEL CHIMA

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