November 12, 2012

Book piracy troubles in Zimbabwe


Publishers and authors in Zimbabwe say that the police are only cracking down on the pirated DVD trade, and ignoring the highly active illegal book industry.

The AFP reports on AhramOnline, that many publishers fear they will soon go out of business if nothing is done to prevent books from being reproduced illegally, and sold on the streets at cheap prices.

According to Emmanuel Makadho, director of Book Love Publishers, bootleggers have invested in color copiers and printers, in order to quickly reproduce books in large quantities.

Sibongile Jele, a lecturer in publishing studies at the National University of Science and Technology said,

“Police only chase music disc pirates and pass street vendors who sell photocopies of textbooks…

The justice system treats piracy as a minor offence compared to other crimes,” she said in a country where jokes insulting President Robert Mugabe can land one before the courts.

“Some schools also buy pirated books. Publishers are stuck with hordes of books in their warehouses but what the small guy, the underground baron is doing is to use the simplest technology to achieve maximum gains at the cost of publishers.”

In Zimbabwe, school books are a highly valuable commodity, and supplying them to children has been one of the biggest challenges in overhauling the school system.

Earlier this year, The Telegraph reported that textbooks donated by the UK to Zimbabwe’s schools were being hawked by street vendors.

Wrote Aislinn Laing,

“Some 22 million books have been distributed to more than 3,000 schools since the UN-run programme was launched in September 2010…Such was their value that those delivering the books were only paid once head teachers had confirmed their arrival, and each school was given steel cabinets to guard against theft. “

The situation has left publishers debating whether to even release new titles, for fear of seeing thousands of bootleg copies on the street the next day.



Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.