When the Kenya Publishers Association hosted the Nairobi International Book Fair (NIBF) last year, they were testing the waters; taking baby steps, if you like.
This was the first book fair after a two-year hiatus, occasioned by the Covid-19 restrictions. When the pandemic struck in 2020, NIBF, the largest book event this side of the Sahara, could not be held as Kenyans had been forced to remain indoors, just like the rest of the world. That year, KPA was forced to innovate and hold a virtual book fair, which was largely symbolic.
In 2021, Covid had started showing signs of subsiding, and publishers made arrangements to hold the fair that September. Their plans were however scuttled when the world experienced a sudden spike in the case of the Delta variant.
The 2022 event was somewhat sluggish since many international exhibitors did not show up. Local exhibitors, however, more than made up for this deficit.
“When we were making preparations for last year’s event, there were many grey areas, but we thank God it turned out just fine,” says Kiarie Kamau, the chairman of KPA.
Kamau, who is also the CEO of East African Educational Publishers, says things are looking up and publishers are planning a grand event this year. “This year, NIBF will be bigger and better,” he told The Nairobian. “There is something for everyone, right from kindergarten babies to retirees.”
He adds that an increased number of international exhibitors will be exhibiting at this year’s event. “Already, exhibitors from Egypt, China, India, Tanzania, among others, have booked their slots. More have shown interest and will be making their commitment,” added Kamau.
The presence of many international exhibitors means that trading in book rights will be in full swing. “Whenever you have international exhibitors, most of whom are publishers, they are not only after selling their books, but most importantly, they are on the lookout for titles they feel would interest their markets,” explains the KPA chief.
Mary Maina, the chair of NIBF, says book lovers will be happy to note that books will be selling at a 50 per cent discount. “This is an offer not to be missed. Schools should particularly take up this very generous offer to stock up on their book needs for even up to two years,” says Ms Maina, who is also the managing director of Moran Publishers. This year’s book fair takes place from September 27 to October 1 at Sarit Centre in Westlands.
The theme of this year’s event is ‘nurturing talent through publishing’. “The entire publishing chain is made up of diverse professions, from writers, designers, illustrators, editors, marketers among others,” explains Ms Maina. “By choosing this theme, we are putting the message out there that youngsters who nurse ambitions of taking up these careers are better off joining the publishing industry. There will be a number of workshops where all these career options will be showcased.”
Another big attraction of the Nairobi International Book Fair will be the awarding of two literary prizes at a go. These are the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature and the Wahome Literary Prize for Humour. The judges' panel has received the books and will be releasing the shortlist at the end of August.