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VAS

New digital wave holds sway in The Nairobi International Book Fair

THE NAIROBIAN
By By MBUGUA NGUNJIRI | August 30th 2013

By MBUGUA NGUNJIRI

The Nairobi International Book Fair (NIBF), which is organised by the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), will have a digital pavilion, where visitors “will be taken through the digital experience.”

The 16th edition of NIBF, to be held from September 25-29, comes at a time when books industry in Kenya is facing arguably its toughest challenge yet, the recently approved VAT Bill and the advent of digital publishing.

The VAT law that was passed by Parliament and cleared by the president will now impose a 16 per cent tax on books, which means that the cost of books will shoot up.

The upshot of this is that publishers will incur extra expense when producing books, a cost they will most probably pass on the consumer.

Faced with the option of buying essential commodities like food and books, the average Kenyan, whose earning power has not increased, will most likely opt to do away with books.

And with onset of digital publishing being heralded by the contentious laptop project, the printed book might slowly be headed the ‘endangered’ route.

NIBF Publishers chairman David ers Waweru said they have no option than to adapt to the changing scenarios.

He reveals for the first time ever, NIBF, which is organised by the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), will have a digital pavilion, where visitors “will be taken through the digital experience.”

“Apart from that, we will have a three-day seminar on digital publishing organised by the African Publishers’ Network (APNET) and ourselves,” he explains.

“This is a very important seminar since technological advancement is such that cannot avoid digital publishing.”

When the VAT Bill came to light publishers lobbied hard to have books exempted from the list of items to be subjected to the tax without success.

When pressure was brought to bear on the government only foodstuffs like maize flour and milk were exempted from VAT.

Publishers now say that the move to subject books to VAT is retrogressive.

“This is akin to taxing knowledge which in our view undermines Vision 2030, which is anchored on the development of human capital,” he says, adding that development of human capital can only be realised through books.

Waweru broke down the impact of the VAT Bill on books and it emerged that the cost of books will not just go up by the projected 16 per cent.

“The first level of taxation will be at the importation level since the Kenyan market is a net importer of paper,” he explains.

“The finished book subjected to a further 16 per cent tax, on top of increased cost of electricity and well as the newly introduced Railway Tax on imported products.”

He estimates that the cost of books will go up by more than 30 per cent.

Of the twin challenges publishers are more at home with digital publishing as will see publishers adopting a new business model, “which to us means a new revenue stream.”

Still, publishers are prepared to put their best foot forward during the book fair.

“This year we will be introducing a new event; the Authors’ Buffet, where multiple books will be launched in an interactive session between authors and readers,” adds Waweru.

Towards the end of the fair, winners of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature will be announced.

James Odhiambo, the executive secretary of KPA told The Nairobian that the judges’ panel is finalising on the process and will soon be announcing a list of nominees for the Sh150,000 literary prize.
 

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