With the on-going school textbook saga playing out in Limpopo and surrounding promises, National Book Week brings forth an even more important discussion around the importance of the accessibility of books.
Why people don’t read:
There are a range of reasons, including the history of the country. Other reasons include:
Lack of focussed, coordinated reading promotion strategies,
Price of books in South Africa
Lack of libraries
Content – books too difficult to read, also issues of language
Time – lack of time
Perceived as boring
Access to books:
Access to books in South Africa is largely dependent on libraries because of the socio-economic conditions. The library sector is in the process of being transformed to better serve the country and an extensive process of consultation led to the finalisation of a library transformation bill.
Bookshops are mainly found in high-end malls and services mainly the middle and upper class.
Access also speaks to issues of content and price. Both of these need attention and different kinds of books need to be made available. This however requires a complex chain of events which is best addressed through a comprehensive growth plan such as a National Book Policy.
Rural areas remain poorly serviced. Once again, the library sector is best placed to service rural areas. A number of interventions, including mobile libraries are being explored.
Promoting reading culture:
South Africa does not have a reading promotion strategy. Reading promotion is one of the most important interventions to increase access to books. South Africa has a very small book buying market, which make books expensive. The cost of books is largely driven by the size of the print run for economies of scale. If more books are read and bought, print runs will be bigger and this will markedly affect the cost of books.
This is the reason for National Book Week, which is being developed as a national reading promotion campaign. More elements will be added to the campaign so that it can be implement across the year.
Impact of book week:
Book Week is only in its second year. Reading promotion is a long term intervention and as such impact will become evident from year 5 onwards.
Since its inception however, National Book Week has become a priority in the Department of Arts and Culture’s strategic plan. This is a major achievement after one year.
We are confident however, that with consistent effort, National Book Week is an important vehicle to get more people reading in South Africa. National Book Week, and other interventions of the SABDC is based on extensive research and therefore serve as very targeted interventions for the book sector.