The just ended annual book fair; Nairobi International Book Fair which is in its 15th year now, was marked by the usual array of exhibition stands by various local and international publishers, school children and a theme which sadly is usually only seen on the magazine.
DDD as they like to call themselves are no publisher. They are actually a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) organisation founded in 2001 and currently in other developing countries such as Cambodia and Laos. They set up shop in Kenya in recently with offices in Nairobi.
If you have an interest in the Internet business or have observed it since the 90s when Africa Online was a household name then Amolo Ng’weno would be a familiar name. She is the MD of DDD Kenya.
The Nairobi Book Fair has over the years lost the flair that most international Book fairs have where book lovers are lured with all manner of activities from intense literary discussions to book launches, poetry performances, story telling to launch of book related solutions.
It seems as though most of the publishers seize this opportunity to sell their books at discounted rates rather than use the platform to engage with their consumers and authors by creating activities that will enhance this relationship.
This year however, the buzz was around E-Kitabu.
E-Kitabu is a marketplace for digital books so to speak. Its enables authors and publishers to digitize their books into .epub format that can be read on any device and sell them as downloads. This off course is not a new concept as E-books have been around for some time now. However, the challenge for most publishers has been; a reliable payment system and ensuring that the digital books are not pirated.
This is the challenge that the DDD team have been able to overcome by providing a payment solution that is used by thousands of Kenyans nowadays; Mpesa. They have also purchased a Digital Rights Management System from Adobe that ensures that the e-book can only be read/accessed from specific devices thus curtailing piracy.
I was at the Sarit Center on Friday for the showcasing of the system which enables one to buy either from the website or from their mobile application which is in the Google Play store. The application is free to download.
The whole concept of e-books is still quite new to most publishers and thus, the showcase session soon turned into a QnA one with most in the audience posing alot of questions which I felt could have been answered had they read/researched on e-books prior to the session.
The E-Kitabu CEO Will Clurman covered all the basics quite exhaustively even going to lengths of explaining how one can convert a book from a .pdf to a .epub format.
Although the DDD team is in the initial stages of development of the platform, they have already signed on some notable publishers both in Kenya and internationally(please note that the store is not exclusively for the Kenyan market), talks are still ongoing with other publishers in Kenya.
Though the store does not yet have the A-list of books that one would want to download especially in the African literature category, its a good start for them.
Incase you were looking for the book that has got every woman talking then download the E-Kitabu app and get yourself a copy of Fifty Shades (There is a reason why it has become the most downloaded e-book)
My take is that E-Kitabu is certainly going to change the way publishers package and sell books as well as how Kenyans read.