eKitabu Monthly Newsletter August 2023 - Nairobi International Book Fair 2023
September 1, 2023
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If you're a book lover or passionate about publishing and works that bring stories and voices of Africa to us all, you won't want to miss the 24th Nairobi International Book Fair (NIBF) from Wednesday 27th September to Sunday 1st October at Sarit Expo Centre in Westlands, Nairobi. Its theme: nurturing talent through publishing. eKitabu will be at the Book Fair as a longtime member of Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), which represents book publishing in Kenya and encourages the broadest possible spread of print and digital content throughout Kenya, the continent, and the world.

When you come, we will welcome you to the eKitabu stand where we will have lots to see and do and friends to meet. We are experimenting at NIBF 2023, and we welcome you to come learn with us. In 2019, the last NIBF before Covid-19, we learned much through engagement of deaf and hearing children enjoying stories together in the live prototype of Studio KSL’s Digital Story Time. In 2022 Digital Story Time became, mirabile dictu, the most popular children’s TV program in Kenya with 12 million viewers. At NIBF 2022, the first Book Fair after the pandemic, we made engagement our whole focus in Book Fair activities. We dismantled our stand on day 1 to open it more for more room for more people to connect. As anyone who has been to our offices in Nairobi or Rwanda knows, open is the way we work. This year, we are back to the living lab of NIBF overflowing with ideas.

If you are a publisher or literary agent, if you buy or sell book rights, we want to get to know you at our NIBF Rights Café. We have recruited “Ambassadors”—rights buyers and rights sellers from the continent and outside—to join us at NIBF and make markets together. We hope this inaugural NIBF Rights Café will be a new wellspring in African publishing. For the first time, NIBF will provide a dedicated space for the business of rights trading. Making books available in different languages, in different formats, and in different media is essential to, as we say, moving content around. To see an author’s book published in its mother language, then made available in French, German, Spanish, Swahili, Arabic, Portuguese, Hindi, Mandarin, English, or other languages of the world, to see the work come to life on the screen too, is all possible through buying and selling of rights.

Respected advisers in these efforts include KPA Chairman and CEO of East African Educational Publishers Kamau Kiarie, who shared: “As Kenyan and African publishers, we need to find content for our environment, negotiate with the rights owner, publish for our markets, and showcase our content to the world.” Emma House, founder of Oreham Group and a Publisher Without Borders shared: “There is so much talent in African publishing and so many undiscovered publishers and writers that the wider world needs to know about.” 

One idea we are working out at this time is an author showcase or “pitchfest.” That is, a platform for authors to introduce themselves, read from their work, get in front of and get feedback from rights buyers, sellers, APNET leaders, and publishers who will be there with us. My mom, a teacher and writer herself, suggested that the format be about 10 minutes for each author to introduce themselves, say why they write and for whom, then read from their work. What do you think of that format? We could even hold these daily at NIBF. A number of colleagues have noted that NIBF can do more to amplify culture and the voices of African authors and creatives. Let’s see what we can do in this regard together. Anyone with ideas, feedback, or lessons learned on these matters from your own experience, please write to us and share what you know. In our September Newsletter, we will share more of what we have in store for NIBF 2023. I hope to see you at NIBF 2023!

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