Publishing perspectives from Malawi
Meet Alfred, a small publisher and President of the Book Publishers’ Association of Malawi. Here, he shares some insights on reading and the book industry in Malawi.
My passion for writing ignited when I was in college. I used the college library but when I finished college it was very difficult to get books – until Book Aid International came. Then I could go to the local library.
But we have a problem in Malawi. People want to read but they cannot afford to get books.
Because of this we don’t have a real book market whereby a commercial publisher could say ‘I can make money and I can survive.’ Because of this it hard to get general books published right here in the country. Publishers rely on textbook publishing [as the government funds their purchase for use in schools].
Publishers who have donors behind them can publish other types of books, but almost all of the publishers – over two thirds – are in this industry only for textbooks. We rely on general books to come from other areas – and from Book Aid International.
Having seen the books that Book Aid International provides, I do not think they are in conflict with what the local publishers are doing. Even where we receive some of Shakespeare’s works or other writers [excerpts of which might appear in textbooks], the need for textbooks will still be there.
But there is a hunger, especially in the rural areas, for materials to read. If you go to the rural areas, most of the time you are greeted ‘have you brought any newspapers for us to read?’ They don’t have any literature in that area – they cannot afford it! The disposable income is not available – but there is that hunger. It is not fair to judge reading culture by saying ‘people are not buying books’ – it is actually that they cannot afford them.
The potential is right here – there is that hunger to read a book. We just need the economy to improve.
At Book Aid International we are committed to supporting local publishing as well as providing new books and that’s why all of our programmes include grants for the purchase of locally published titles. Find out more using the links below.