Players in the publishing industry this week scaled up the war against book piracy when they launched security tags on books as well as the ‘Book Piracy is a Crime’ campaign.
The event held at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) premises brought out the state of the publishing industry with reference to book piracy, the efforts that various players have made at curbing the crime and what needs to be done to reduce book piracy.
Speaking during the event, Mr Simon Sossion, who chairs the anti-piracy sub-committee of the Kenya Publishers Association said piracy of books had become a major threat to the dissemination of accurate and reliable content in learning institutions.
“Pirates illegally reproduce books without regard for content accuracy and physical production quality. Pirated books often have poorly printed text which learners can barely read and they have missing or mixed up pages. In fact, 70 per cent of pirated books carry the wrong content.”
Photocopying of large sections of books without authorisation from the copyright holder, photocopying of entire books without authorisation and reproduction of books have led to old editions and unedited versions of books landing on the desks of learners all over the country.
A survey conducted jointly by the Ministry of Education, KICD and the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) in February 2016 revealed that counterfeit books are widely used in schools.
“On average, 30 per cent of all the text books used in schools are counterfeit. The case of counterfeit KCSE set books is more severe at 40-50 percent,” said Mr Sossion, further revealing that the use of anti-piracy techniques like holograms, watermarks and embossing that have been used by publishers have been perfected by counterfeiters and book pirates.
The introduction of security tags on books, offered by Brand ID Technologies, will offer unique a PIN for each book purchased by the parent or student or school which they can text to KPA SMS short code of 22776 for instant verification as to whether the book is original or counterfeit.
Allan Thompson, Brand ID’s International Marketing director said that the by allowing the consumers- book buyers- to directly and immediately confirm the authenticity of the purchased books, the consumers delink themselves from book pirates.
Allan Thompson says that the benefits of the security tags are numerous; “The brand owners, and the book buyers can connect directly and verify if the books that they are presented with are genuine or not. They also have the opportunity, through our technology, of tracking the source of the book and tracking the individuals/ book shops that the counterfeit books are being sold at.”
The problem of book piracy in the country is well documented and generously lamented. In the universities all over the country, students rarely buy course material. Instead, they prefer to photocopy entire books and entire research journals.
Mr Darious Mogaka, the Director Policy, Partnership and East African Affairs at the Ministry of Education added his voice to that of publishers, authors like Kinyanjui Kombani (who has furiously raged against piracy for years), book printers, bookshops and teachers handling sub-standard pirated books.
“This fight is about appealing to the minds of Kenyans. Book piracy is costly and detrimental to learning. Can we adopt best practices of fighting the vice from other countries?” he asked, urging all the stakeholders to utilise their networks and relationships in order to beat an ever changing group of book piracy crooks.
On the streets, book vendors sell books at half or quarter the price. Parents from various sections of the country were at the beginning of the year being sought by book merchants who were illegally selling counterfeit books at half the price to cash-strapped parents.
Such book merchants and businessmen that run printing and publishing presses where they illegally reproduce books when apprehended can face up to 10 years in jail for a first offender or a fine of Sh400,000.