15 September 2017

Ethiopia: Always Readers, Always Ready!


Nowadays, the culture of reading is showing some improvements. Several reasons have contributed to the improvement. Globalization and the ensuing technological advancement have the lion's share in this regard. Currently, it would be easy to access information in every micro second only by swiping Smartphone. There are also opportunities to download e-books. However, books published in paperback are sill circulating in the market. Particularly, in countries like ours, where technological devices are so costly, paperbacks are better alternatives.

Using this as a ground, The Ethiopian Herald had moments of togetherness with book vendors and readers in Addis Ababa.

Asfaw Bekele is 8th grade student. He usually leaves home early at 7:00 in the morning to vend books of various kinds to readers in the streets of Addis. He also walks to various cafés in the capital carrying books, piled up to his chin.

"For the last five years, I have been struggling to eke out living vending books around Arat Killo, Amest Killo, Sidest Killo [along King Gorege VI Avenue] and Piazza. I choose these places because there are university students, scholars and readers in these places."

According to him, selling books in the street needs patience. This is especially true if he decided to sell his books without any profit.

For Asfaw vending book is his livelihood. The profit he gets out of selling books will be used to pay for his education and his tiny rental room.

"I often get drenched in sweets carrying a lot of books and walking long distances. After several days of vending effort in vain, I may decide to slash down the price in order to lead a hand-to-mouth life. I don't want to disrupt my education and get kicked out from the tiny lodging, I rented around Shiro Meda."

While this reporter asked him vendors' dishonest bent regarding book prices, Asfaw said, "To tell the truth I never do like that. But some of my friends try to sell the books with this system. As readers always have the inclination to ask a price cut, to balance this, vendor's tamper with the price on the back. Almost all buyers have taken bargaining for granted even if the exact price of the book they want to buy is displayed on the back cover."

There are sometimes problems that some irresponsible book vendors expunge the actual price and put another price to maximize their profit. Despite the challenges, erasing the original price is unethical. It doesn't encourage readers to buy books in a fair price.

From force of habit, people ask the price of a book and walk away up on hearing vendors' responses.

Regarding book preferences of readers, Asfaw said that readers often prefer to buy books that centered on political and historical issues.

Concerning to seasonal variation of book sale, Asfaw said: "The sale of books is seasonal. The book market warms during the summer vacation (Ethiopia's rainy season).

Students are our main clients. For that reason there is a great demand for books in semester breaks. However, in the summer season, the market declines.

Getachew Teklu is Political Science and International Relations undergraduate student with the Addis Ababa University. According to him, there is a wide gap between students' pocket money and the price of a book in circulation.

"Most of the time, university students fix their eyes on handouts prepared by teachers. I have never bought books deducting from my pocket money. I rather prefer to borrow from library or my friends. I know how much books helped me acquire my current status. They have allowed me to be proud of myself."

Critical readers are good leaders of the future. They grasp an important lesson from the books they read. Thus, they develop skills of looking things from various perspectives. So as to cultivate a reading habit among citizens, the government should intervene to stabilize the soaring book market. In doing so, we may thwart encumbrances that hinder the sector's further development and effectiveness. Building a generation that peruses books is a key in creating a prosperous nation. When we come up with critical readers we will have a committed society that upholds its culture, conducts research and works to discover hidden things around it. An information and knowledge sniffing readership will help develop a habit of trouble shooting and standing for the truth. Readers are heard attributing books that enabled them be fruitful in their life.

As the saying goes "If there is a will, there is a way" even if the price of books is expensive, once a person is addicted to reading, s/he will have the opportunity to get books. Books are available at public and school libraries as well as on the shelves of relatives, if the book-thirsty are determined enough.

As compared to readers, people, who prove reluctant to open books, might not offer something. Nurturing and stepping up daily reading habits paves way to absorbing tremendous information and knowledge that makes our life viable. People moving around having their books in hand might be stronger than people walking alone. They have better opportunity to get decent work and earn more salary as well.


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