A book is more than just a commodity for sale, it is first and foremost an inner passionThe decisive factor will be the inner movement which is a passion for books; that prompts people to read, write, and dream up books in different forms and formats. It is this passion on the inside that can ‘contaminate’ Africa, posited Daniel Bourdanné, it is not what comes from the outside that contaminates. What contaminates, comes from the inside out – paraphrasing Jesus from Mark 7:14, at the first Africa Speaks Consultation in 2018.
When I started restructuring the PBA (Presses Bibliques Africaines), I had no capital. But something drove me on – a passion for books. I deeply believed in books as agents of change, training, encounters with people, dialogue, gateways to life, a sure path to transformation. I went into debt to produce my first book. Thankfully I was able to repay the debt in a short time even with little experience and no training in publishing.
To produce my first magazine, I enlisted the help of four other friends. I convinced them to put some of their money into it. We scraped together some contributions to run the first issue of the magazine. The magazine survived, debt-free until the group broke up as people began moving elsewhere. I double-hatted as the administrator and left the money collected in the magazine’s account when we closed it. When problems arose, we were ready to re-invest. We never depended on external aid save for an 80-dollar gift we received once from some missionaries.
We never depended on external aid save for an 80-dollar gift we received once from some missionaries.
What we African publishing players need to do, first and foremost, is grow the passion for books in us. I would describe this passion as a calling. The word “calling” is pregnant with meaning. It refers to something that dwells deep within and drives us, such that we keep pressing ahead even in the face of difficulty. There is no denying that the meaning of the word “calling” tends to wane and shrink as the Christian arena becomes increasingly professionalized. However, the fact remains that as players of Africa’s book industry, we need to have a calling.
Be it in written or oral form, electronic or any other format, produced using print on demand technology or through more conventional methods; we must love books and nurture a love for them. This passion and love of books must give rise to a hymn to the joy of reading, writing, and explaining the art of storytelling. Africa will not have its book publishing revolution until we win the battle of loving books; of reconciling orality and writing.
Africa will not have its book publishing revolution until we win the battle of loving books
Africa is made up of community people who want to meet each other. We ought to read in order to meet each other. Written or oral accounts of curious events work better – not necessarily because they are better written, or are literary masterpieces; but because people get connected through their stories. So, we meet to share these stories and spread them by word of mouth. What do people do with their mobile phones? They share interesting tidbits, things said on YouTube.
I personally own three physical libraries which contain hundreds and sometimes thousands of books, each. There is one library in my home, one in my office, and one back in Ivory Coast. Someone once asked me what I will do with my books when I return to Africa or when I move. But for me, even with the space issue, any suggestion to discard my books is insulting. The books in my library are generally in good condition. It pains me deeply to see someone open a book and fold it in two.
I personally own three physical libraries which contain hundreds and sometimes thousands of books, each… even with the space issue, any suggestion to discard my books is insulting
But why such a great love for books? The Frenchman, Jacques Chancel, loved to say: “Let there be no doubt about it, it is books that beam the small lights that are able to inform the world, that light candles which serve as benchmarks, markers, that give warning to tyrants and weak people…”.
Does this quotation from Jacques Chancel not take us, as Christians, back to Psalms 119:105; “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path”? For Christians, books are life because the word is eternal life. Christianity is the religion of the book. We are people of the book. The book is about transformation. Books shift centers of power to the fringes. They lessen the dangers of ignorance.
Books shift centers of power to the fringes. They lessen the dangers of ignorance.Those who come into publishing: writers, publishers, producers, printers must come chiefly motivated by this inner passion for books as a means of transforming Africa. It is this passion that motivates, inspires, equips people with grit, resilience, and creativity.