Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Kenya: Why Not Digital Textbooks?

It not often you see the third world demand for textbooks and potentially a OLPC program brought home so starkly as in an article in the Business Daily Prices of text books. The report is about a 12% hike in textbooks in Kenya and that the government has felt the need to step and impose a cap on the increase in order to protect consumers from arbitrary price increases by publishers on approved books.

The souring increased cost of printing paper is blamed for the increase with a 30% rise in 12 months from $970 to $1400 per 1,000 kilogrammes. Kenyan publishers’ sources of paper include Sweden, Germany and South Africa.

However some publishers have noted that an increase could damage sales and kept their increases to single figures.

The industry sells books worth over Sh3 billion per year, but its over-reliance on the government orders has denied players sales beyond text books.

The government has introduced free primary education, a subsidy of secondary education and made frequent changes of syllabus texts which have not only driven costs but also made the government the single biggest buyer of text books.

In light of souring costs and increasing demand it begs the question of why Kenya and similar counties aren’t embracing the OLPC program and their publishers doing it digitally.

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