Saturday 27 August 2005

More on reading poverty

Nicky Schmidt, a South African writer, commented on my lament about reading access in poor countries:

I was interested to read your blog "Make READING poverty history!" I'm a South African children's writer (yet to be published) and I can only attest to what you say.

Prices in South Africa put books way beyond the reach of the average child - so reading is just not a priority - a sad indictment of society indeed. The irony is that even books that are published locally are staggeringly expensive - the market is small, the print runs low and the prices therefore ludicrously high - and add to that that local publishers won't even consider publishing books that are not rooted in the South African genre - thereby effectively closing off the world to South African children - unless they can afford imported books... which few can.

For imported books, there is still import duty, landing charges and VAT to be added on to the publishers price. Many of us have regularly challenged goverment on at least making books VAT free but to no avail. We live in a world that is driven entirely by profit and greed (from governments and corporates to everyone else) and that no one stops to consider the end result and the big picture.

Depriving children of the adventure and discovery of reading makes for ultimately, IMHO, a very poor world indeed.

So here are some questions for all you publishers out there: what's going on? Is it the local publishers in poor countries? Do they see no profit in printing cheaper copies of the great stuff that come out in the rest of the world? Or are the publishing companies in the West making it unaffordable? Are there any facilities in place to get books out to places like South Africa and the Philippines where children just cannot afford the joy of reading?

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