Day Out at the Africa Writes Literary Festival

I found out that there was going to be the Africa Writes festival at the British Library on social media and given that I love African literature, I was interested. The event ran for 3 days but I only attended on the second day- Saturday.

At the British Library

I chose to attend sessions on digital publishing and diversity in children’s publishing and a book launch. Yewande Omotoso launched her book- The Woman Next Door so I was able to find out more about her writing and the book. 

I enjoyed all the sessions and the panel discussions were very interesting. I’ll give you a mini recap on the session as the issues they discussed are topical. The sessions were:

The Digital Debate: A New Era of Reading and Publishing
This was facilitated by the ladies who founded Bahati Books, a digital publishing house. What drew me to attend was the constant conflict in my mind on whether to buy e-books or hard copies. The latter always wins the war. I’ve only read 2 books on Kindle and the first time I bought a Kindle book, I thought e-books were cheap. I bought it for £1 but I guess there must have been a promotion at the time. 
The publishers on the panel mentioned how they can play with the prices of their e-books and that’s why it may seem cheap at certain periods. They can afford to change prices on e-books but hard copies have the prices already printed on them. The panel spoke on how it can be costly producing e-books so we shouldn’t expect it to be free.
There was a discussion on free content and how “just because it’s digital, doesn’t mean it’s free.” However, I feel there’s a place for free digital content from authors. I like when I’m able to read blog posts or short stories from authors online for free before committing to buying a book. There are short stories on Brittle Paper which I read from time to time to discover new authors.

An interesting issue was also whether certain genres like erotica do better in e-book sales. It was said that 50 Shades of Grey did well in e-book sales as people perhaps felt more comfortable reading it digitally than holding a copy version and reading it in public. 

“There’s no such thing as a Black Princess: Diversity in Children’s Publishing”
This was about the need for representation of characters from different backgrounds. I knew growing up, I read many books by Enid Blyton where I didn’t see any characters like me and I didn’t think much of it at the time. However, it’s important that children see themselves in books because every background is valid.

One thing I took away from this were that stories are for everyone. Just because, a book has black characters doesn’t mean it’s only meant to be read by black children.

Then, there was a question on whether books should have raceless characters. For example, there was a casting of a black actress as Hermione in the West End play, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child and this caused a lot of debate. JK Rowling defended this casting as the ethnicity of Hermione was “never specified” in the book. From the session, I figured the panel was more drawn to ethnicity of characters being specified.

Finally, what’s a book event without an opportunity to buy books? There was a book marketplace and I bought a romance novel by Ola Awonubi, called Love’s Persuasion and chatted with Ola.

Ola Awonubi and I

Overall, I enjoyed Africa Writes and I plan to next year and attend more of the sessions. It was a lovely way to spend my Saturday.

Let me know in the comments section if you’re a lover of e-books or you’re a hard copy girl like me.

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