Q&A: Words on… eKitabu – the Rights Café, Nairobi International Book Fair
November 28, 2023
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Originally posted by Africa in Words (AiW) on 24th November 2023

AiW note: With thanks to Catalyst Press who have worked with us to bring you this twinned Q&A.

In September 2023, eKitabu, a Nairobi-based organisation that develops, adapts, publishes, and distributes African content, sponsored twelve publishing professionals to come to the Nairobi International Book Fair (NIBF) and attend a new “Rights Café”.

Meeting head-on those challenges already known for books publication across the continent — such as the majority of publishers focusing on educational texts, and/or book prices being determined by traditionally published works; the often heavy costs and burdens of self-publishing, printing, marketing, promotion; the lack of structured marketing and distribution systems, as well as the availability of robust legal frameworks — the Rights Café was established to shed light on the all-important business end of the business of books, with a particular spotlight on rights buying and selling, for writers and publishing professionals alike.

The invited NIBF Ambassadors – African publishing rights professionals from Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, and Uganda, and their counterparts from France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, the UK, and USA – came together in this, the first dedicated space for business-to-business rights discussions at the NIBF.

Rights Deals Speed Dating Session at NIBF 2023

Sharing thinking across issues in publishing and translation rights – intellectual property, developing trust with improved contractual agreements and info around sound legal frameworks, as well as expanding local and global networks on these bases — featured activities included panels on trends in African literature, discussions about how to strengthen rights trading for African writers, and innovative “speed-dating” sessions with buyers and sellers.

With the initial Rights Café as a forum, the “journey from being predominantly buyers to sellers of literary rights”, as eKitabu put it, has begun.

While this was the first year for the NIBF to have a dedicated rights fair, the hope is it will now be an annual event, one that will enable a thriving rights industry among publishers and authors, so that African writing will have greater and more secure access to being published both across the continent and around the globe.

The sponsor, eKitabu, and several of the invited NIBF Ambassadors participating in the Rights Café, have responded to a “Words on…” Q&A about their involvement, their experience there, and, with their hopes, what it has set in motion that they can take forward into the future — with and for African writers and publishing.  

Today, in collaboration with Catalyst Press, one of the invited Rights Café Ambassadors, we are delighted to be able to share e-Kitabu’s responses. In a twinned post, we will also be sharing those from publishing professionals — including journalists, agents, and booksellers — from across Europe and America, invited by eKitabu to attend and share in the new venture for rights across the continent.

What opens up between the Q&As is a fascinating insight into this area of books production, bringing light to this crucial aspect of the relationships involved in the publication, ownership, and sharing of writers’ work on the business end of international books. Read more

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