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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Promoting Books the JALAA Way

I'm curably sick and put out with the cliché of poor reading culture that is constantly mouthed by everyone who has the slightest opportunity to air some ingenuous basis to a confused audience. I swallow short breathed disgusted air when people start going superficially lyrical about what the causes of subsisting Nigerian reading tradition are and what solutions really go to tackle it. Same with how a professor of Technology in one uncertain Nigerian institution will go bragging on some frustrated newspaper column what e-learning is without bringing the simplicity of the word out in a practicable, seeable and (if I may add) touchable manner. Like a friend of mine would say; platitudes – ideas and theories full of plastics! When such professor could easily have put it clearly; e-learning is electronic education by means of multimedia and add as an addendum; despite the point that this is an Institution of Technology we don't have the resource to enhance that. SIMPLE! That saves prosaicsm.

It is a more ubiquitous fact that anything that comes from the mouths of some highly classy conceited few becomes the fussy-point of discussion for many. Okay, cut me some slack, (I would prefer if you could add me some guguru instead) Nigeria is one nation on a slanting verge of deteriorating reading culture, agreed. However, who can say he has taken the pain too in establishing a verified graph on how this improves or plummets over time other than joining the mass on hypocritically playing the messiah in numerous debates of rhetoric? I doubt that! We are only good at coming into our own on presumed stats set by mushy and imbalanced theories.

If census were to be made, I do. I mean, I read! You are surprised?! Why wouldn't you be? I wouldn't even blame you if you do anyway when the preconception that stems from your perspective is what informed by some sizeable networkers attending a literary reading at some highbrow venue in Lagos or Portharcourt. I know a lot of those who get their eyes busy with words, at least on avalanche of pings on BBs and updates on facebook. Unhealthy reading, you may care to say. Ok, it is. But that answer could still be contextual anyway. There are quality notes to read on facebook if you want to go academic on the social media.

Simply put, reading is an art, the art is in words. If the definition is anything to go by in defining what reading is, then a pass should Nigerians score. We really want to read when the materials are mainstreamed into what carries our affections and instantly made obtainable. Check newsstands and the numbers of Sport Tabloid that vie for space and attention with conventional newspapers and correct me if I am mistaken about the fact that we are reading. Seriously we do, at least with those that are without having to go on an expensive journey to some exotic bookshops just to get a good fiction. Can't we be less myopic?!!! The literary enthusiasts in cities that attract readings shouldn't be used as general proposition of book lovers.

Humor and irony apart, the situation isn't whether Nigerian youths read or not, the focal point now should be what they read; if healthy or not and how healthy reading can be encouraged. You want to ponder on why my friends here in Osogbo would rather go for anthologies of Sport's soft sells than put out a morsel on current contemporary African fictions; poor distribution! I have reservation if there are bookshops that really shelve good fictions in remote towns like Terra Kulture and Silverbird's LifeStyle do. The gorge is always there to add strain to one whom so desire to venture into good reading. It might be true reading-culture is dying, but also, are there in place proper chains of book accessibility?

My journeys to Lagos are countless; so are the fares that pay my ferry in getting good fictions daunting. Can't good books be made reachable before plotting graphs on reading culture? Take Farafina books to Ikorodu in Lagos, Dada books to Ubiaja in Edo, Cassava pieces to Ota-Efun in Osun, and let's note if Adichie, Eghosa, Arigbabu, Verissimo and Habila wouldn't be having additional readers and literary followers. It is simple economic-strategy, good distribution increases consumers. And so does it too for books.

When I stumbled on the post made by an online friend (Temitayo Olofinlua) about the sale's network Jalaa Writers' Collective has put up to get readers in the country acquainted with their books, I knew there was a rare magical marketing skill at display. Seeing how their physical transaction centres span almost 22 states of the country, I felt a bit livened up. Not getting any of them in favorable proximity to my hovel, I mischievously typed in on the wall post on facebook; None of these… is close to Osun. Really never cared much thought would be given to that. The reply that I was to later get shattered my belief. Jalaa's move in getting their books closer to a conterminous city to my abode was remarkable! It definitely made workable my idea of peer-exchange an achievable one. Up till that encounter, I've always sank deep in thought on the feasibility of building a network of familiar body contacts where books can be transferable and bought like the movie CDs I borrow next door and the one I purchase at the end of my street. Familiar-body-transfer of books, it's clear, getting books in a familiar circumstance that you usually exchange other things with friends in.

Getting Roses & Bullets and Pride of the Spider Clan by just making  some calls coupled with a 30 minutes trip to Ife for the pickup was alleviating; a good incentive towards reading. The distribution-system the books took to me; fantastic! It was through a simple system of simply dropping the book off with a student at OAU that could effortlessly be contacted for the book. There is now no more arduous step to take in shelving new books, in so far as it is on Jalaa's stable. All what behooves on one are some few calls of inquiry and getting them at the very best convenient location. Jalaa could just be anywhere near you.

I went Jalaa few days ago at Ife, OAU, with the foregoing titles and the cost of really getting them like I was always wont to do at Lagos reduced.

This is what I'm propounding; let leading publishers get volunteering distributors across and through cities and hamlets in the country and let see if reading culture won't leap. Let's be realistic here. Knowing that the African fictions that are only the preserved features in high cities' glass-walled bookshops could also be gotten through a volunteering representative next door or street is one simple potent magic of mass distribution. Let's break the conservative chain and put some creative network in place; my books will definitely swell than I myself would imagine. Same goes for unknown and unrepresented avid readers too.  

Next time some ajebos and attention-seeking coterie are outwitting themselves in dissecting what solutions can be made to the dying Nigerian reading-culture, ask if plans are already under way to make books available at the same current with those things that struggle with it, even if a neighbor knocks on their doors for one to honorably buy and read.

Let book-distribution go guerilla or Jalaala. For now, JALAA; way to go!  


  1. @surgoen. Thanks Surgeon. Thanks for reading. Hope you would always come visiting at other times.

  2. Great point here, distribution is often the issue, not reading itself. People say that here in Canada African literature doesn't sell... but it is also much more difficult to find, so it is really distribution at issue here as well. I'd say it is often the cause! Glad to hear that you had great luck with the Jalaa books! Will you read Blackbird? It's the only Jalaa book I've read yet but I really enjoyed it.

  3. @Amy. I just hope people start focusing on the blow poor distribution is dealing reading culture. I never knew poor distribution is also affecting Canada as regards African fiction.

    I had Blackbird in mind when I was planning on getting Jalaa titles, the price was just a little bit higher than what I had on me to spend on a second book with Roses & Bullets. I Hope my wallet accommodates it next time I visit Jalaa.

    Thanks for reading, Amy


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