Book lovers in Kampala were recently treated to a week of launches, public readings, poetry recitals and conversations, when Uganda International Book Fair returned to the Constitutional Square after a four-year hiatus.
The event that took place from January 28 to February 2 was also a celebration of the lifting of a ban on the use of the venue for such activities, which had left organisers unable to find affordable spaces.
"We are grateful to Kampala City Council Authority that offered the space free of charge," said the executive secretary of the National Book Trust of Uganda (Nabotu) Charles Batambuze.
Nabotu put together the 28th edition of the book fair alongside Uganda Publishers Association and the Uganda Reproduction Rights Organisation. The event offers stakeholders a platform to network and also boosts visibility of the book market.
Mr Batambuze said more than 300 titles were published in 2019, while book launches, literary festivals, book markets, conferences, awards and book reviews provided visibility. He, however said that there is a need to boost distribution.
"Books are being published but distribution has not expanded beyond Kampala. Are there no readers in Mbale and other towns?" said Mr Batambuze. "We must find ways to boost distribution."
Florence Lusiba, the marketing manager of Gustro Bookshop said that the current hybrid procurement system in which the Ministry of Education buys books from publishers who then deliver them directly to schools eliminates bookshops from the distribution chain which is bad for business.
"Bookshops are an effective and economical means of distributing books to schools and the general," she said.
According to the Uganda Publishers Association, although the book industry has grown its biggest market remains educational books.
"There is potential to break away into other markets such as local languages. Books are now being written in 32 local languages."
The chairman of the book fair organising committee David Kibuuka said that there is a need to encourage "more writers to publish their work and more people to read, which form the foundation of national development."