It's a warm and cosy Wednesday evening. Parents are at home with their children, winding down after long day at the office. Not being a parent and arguably not even an adult, I find myself wondering through the shelves at Skoobs Bookstore in MonteCasino, Johannesburg. The thing I love most about Skoobs is that African authors are displayed loudly and proudly. Not just the serious stuff but the fiction authors also have a home on the shelves, something not common in many of the mainstream stores. I digress, the reason for my evening stroll through the BookStore-Within-A-Casino? BOOKSDIRECT.
Imagine for a moment, an initiative to give hundreds of South African youths employment. Keeping the imagination active, imagine a solution to the problem of getting books into far reaching towns scattered throughout the South African landscape, aimed at eradicating illiteracy. Now imagine if these two objectives were also able to empower the under-appreciated African author? (Are you having literary orgasms yet?)
BOOKSDIRECT is an initiative from the lovely folks at African Narratives who have teamed up with the other nice folks at Activate!. I really wish this project all the success I can as with so many noble goals, everyone will be winners. I have copy and pasted the text from a recent press release regarding the launch of BOOKSDIRECT (with permission :) ).
WHAT IS BOOKSDIRECT?
To sum up the BOOKSDIRECT project: it has been designed to establish a platform for indie authors and small publishers across South Africa, to sell their books into under-served communities. Local readers will now have access to a constantly updated collection of local books, which relate to their own lives to the South African realities in which they live.
African Narratives (AFNA) has partnered with a youth organisation, ACTIVATE! change drivers and the Bookshop Association of South Africa (BOASA), to develop new ways of bookselling in South Africa, especially into those areas previously ignored by the mainstream book trade. The BOOKSDIRECT initiative seeks (i) to strengthen the grassroots groundswell of interest in books and reading, (ii) to furnish affordable local books to new markets via the direct selling model, and (iii) to offer real opportunities for local writers and small publishers.
To encourage business growth, the direct-selling ‘book agents’ will deal with the whole ‘local books for local readers’ package, including involving local schools, encouraging home libraries, and holding events (in the mode of ‘book presentation parties’) and linking local readers with their local writers.
HOW BOOKSDIRECT WORKS
- Books are ordered off a 200 title catalogue containing books published by a range of independent authors and small independent publishers. The emphasis is placed on ‘local books for local readers’ which draws local writers immediately into the mix.
- Quality control is maintained at the centre of the project. AFNA insists that reasonable standards are maintained in terms of concept, writing and physical design to avoid the danger of establishing two tiers of book publishing – one mainstream, the other alternative – which in South Africa can too easily be racially defined.
HOW TO BECOME PART OF THE PROJECT
A catalogue listing fee of R1500 applies. Publishers and authors with more than one title will pay only R250 for every additional title added to the catalogue.
JOIN THE AFRICAN NARRATIVES FAMILY
NOT FOR PROFIT
AFNA is registered as an Non Profit Organisation. This means that all profits earned by BOOKSDIRECT activity will be retained for further development, including the establishment of a PUBLISHING FUND.