How many bookstores are there in Nigeria? Do you remember Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s interview last week by a French journalist and the polemic that ensued after the journalist asked if there were bookstores in Nigeria? If you’ve not been following the story, you can do some catching up here.
Today, Robin Andraca of the Liberation Newpaper, a leading Newspaper in France reports on the number of bookstores in Nigeria and Books To My Door features in the report. Find below the details of the report:
“Your question echoes another question : that posed by a journalist from France Culture to the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who was in Paris last week for the third edition of Nuit des idées organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
” Are there any bookstores in Nigeria? On this occasion, the journalist from France Culture asked the feminist writer and icon who, visibly surprised by the question, had answered, to the applause of dozens of people who had come to listen to her: ” I think that the the fact that you ask me such a question gives a bad image of the French. Because, you know, we are in 2018 anyway … My books are read in Nigeria, they are studied in schools, not only in Nigeria, throughout the African continent too . On social networks, many Internet users have made fun of the question posed by the French journalist, and have welcomed the reaction of the writer. The video has become viral.
Was this question really out of place? A quick tour on Google Maps suggests that there are at least several dozen bookshops in Lagos , the largest city in Nigeria, and the African continent. Contacted by CheckNews, Dayo Okubule, owner of Books to my Door, located in the university district of Lagos, even speaks of 300 bookstores for this city alone. While recognizing that a majority of these bookstores sell religious books, or personal development, the most read books in Nigeria.
Also interviewed by CheckNews, Tabia Princewill, a reporter for The Vanguard , one of the country’s mainstream dailies, founded in 1983, disputes this figure. ” Unless you count, indeed, all the kiosks that sell the Bible.” The one who did part of her studies in France, at the Sorbonne, assures that ” the general bookstore, as we know it in France, where one can buy books for the leisure, does not exist almost in Nigeria ” . There would be, according to her, a score, for the city of Lagos alone, where the book is sold a dozen euros, one tenth of the average monthly salary in Nigeria. The majority of Nigerians would buy, according to her, their second-hand books, in markets or red lights. “Often, they are copies with missing pages .
Pierre Cherruau, a French journalist who has written several novels whose action was taking place in Nigeria, seems less categorical about the split between elites and people over access to literature. He talks about fifty generalist bookstores for the city of Lagos alone, and not much more in the rest of the country. It evokes bookstores in shopping centers in Lagos, frequented by the Nigerian middle class.
After the interview, Chimamanda Ngozi returned on her Facebook page about the interview at the Quai d’Orsay. And on this famous question. ” The journalist Caroline Broué was intelligent, considerate, and well prepared this interview, ” she wrote, before adding, ” When she asked the question, I was surprised because it was below the intellectual level previous questions. I understood now that she was trying to be ironic, to overplay the one who knew nothing, but as she had shown no irony until then, I did not recognize it .
At the end of December 2017, in a more general paper on the current “thirst for literature” in Nigeria , AFP believed that the current challenges remained, indeed, ” immense ” for Nigerian publishers. In fact, as Princesswill related, pirated books and ” roughly photocopied in thousands of copies, ” ” sold on the sly in the markets of large cities .” A local publisher explained to the agency the difficulties of distribution, ” distribution in search of reliable outlets “.
In 2015, the boss of one of the largest publishing houses in the country, Brookcraft, told the New Yorker that it took him three to five years to sell 2 or 3,000 printed copies of the same book. This figure, he said, had not changed since 1998, when Nigeria emerged from 30 years of dictatorship. In 2010, aware of the disinterest of a large part of the population in reading, President Goodluck Jonathan launched a ” Bring Back The Book ” campaign , which could be translated into French as ” Bring back the book “.
It is therefore difficult to estimate the exact number of bookstores in Nigeria. But according to the journalist Pierre Cherruau mentioned earlier, if the question asked by the journalist of France Culture may seem clumsy, it really arises.
How many bookstores do you have in your city? I look forward to your comments.