There is a wildly popular and slightly offensive myth that Nigerians - and Africans - are not big readers. Hundreds of literary events, book readings, discussion forums and think pieces have been dedicated to this myth - just google it, but it is simply not true! Nigerians and Africans read, we're just quickly shifting from physical books to e-books.
Okechukwu Ofili, founder and CEO of Okadabooks, shares our sentiments. Okechukwu founded Okadabooks, an e-book distribution startup Okadabooks, which allows Nigerian authors to bypass traditional publishers, publish their stories and sell them to a wide (and growing) audience. Okechukwu, an engineering graduate turned author, founded the company in 2013 off his frustrations about not being able to sell his own self-published book in Nigeria.
In an interview with DisruptAfrica, Okechukwu gives details of his discontentment with the traditional system:
"The problem was not selling the book, the main issue was collecting the money after I had sold the book. I would visit the bookstores and they would keep telling me to come back later or that the manager was not around."
"Then, I started out by putting my own books on BlackBerry and selling it. But then I started thinking about how I could help other authors sell their books, because they too faced the same issues as I did and a lot of them had given up and stopped writing their stories."
Okadabooks, solves that problem by creating a simple and transparent platform, that leverages on mobile technology, where authors can keep track of the number of copies sold of their books in real-time, and withdraw the money they've made without any hassles. Users can access the content either via web, or the Okadabooks app.
Since launch, the company has seen an exponential rise in the number of authors publishing on the platform - and book lovers who come there to purchase books by their favourite Nigerian or African authors. There are more than 123,000 users registered on the platform, 13,ooo books published and more than a million books downloads so far.
According to him:
"The major gap we spotted is the fact that only 10 to 12 publishers service a nation of over 200 million people, and that only about 33 top level bookstores exist for major publishers to distribute their content."
"Therefore very few books are getting published and those few books are only distributed in a handful of bookstores. This environment creates the popular falsehood that Nigerians do not read. But based on our experience, we are seeing that Nigerian indeed will and do read."
Okechukwu is doubling down on his efforts to make sure that authors see the value in their work, and get paid for their efforts. He plans to expand Okadabooks across Sub-Saharan Africa, especially to Kenya and Ghana.