Why did someone attend a presentation on ebooks?

I attended a presentation by an international supplier – Mallory International Ltd –  and their local partner – Sytris – this week, on electronic books or ebooks.  I have known that this platform was being worked on and trialed for quite some time, and it is of course relevant to the work I do at Ashesi‘s library.  In fact I am often asked about ebooks by visitors, and colleagues, so I am always on the lookout for a platform that actually works in our environment.  So the “outdooring” as it were of Baobab ebooks was definitely welcome.

But this post is not really to talk about ebooks – maybe I will do that another time?  but rather to mention a comment made by one of the attendees.  This person is a librarian, and works in a private university college here in Accra and she mentioned that she did not have any working computers in her library, nor was the library connected to the internet!  I couldn’t help myself and asked why she bothered to attend the presentation.  Her response was “for her self-development”.  I didn’t say anything more.

It is pretty sad though that there are institutions here in Ghana which have been accredited by the National Accreditation Board and consequently allowed to operate, and be mentored by public universities which do not have the most basic of 21st century facilities.  How do their students learn to look for information?

Upon reflection this is not just sad; it is actually a downright shame!

13th Ghana International Book Fair

I did go to the 13th GIBF (Ghana International Book Fair) but I admit it was on the last day – Saturday 7 November.  So if I sound a bit disappointed, maybe that is the reason.  Several of the stands had no one there so I guess the companies/organizations felt it wasn’t worth their while to be there on a Saturday.  I did notice several representatives of mostly Indian printing companies which was quite interesting.

The other issue which slightly bothered me was the fact that there was going to be a launch of a book about Ghana’s President in the late 1970s/early 1980s, Dr Hilla Limann, which I hadn’t heard about!  So I had to make do with online reviews.  And eventually I will see, and probably buy,  a copy of the actual book.

I admit I had originally thought I would be able to attend earlier in the week, but that didn’t work out.

This is not to say that I didn’t buy anything; I did.  A couple of children’s books as gifts and a couple of adult books for work – all from Sub-Saharan Publishers who I am always happy to support, plus I usually find they have something which interests me.

Caine prize 2015 front cover 500I am looking forward to seeing and buying a copy of the latest Caine Prize collection of short stories which Sub-Saharan are co-publishing with New Internationalist, and other publishers on the African continent.

I always wonder how many people go to these Ghana International Book Fairs…

Library and bookish activities in late October/early November 2015

It’s a long time since I posted on this blog, but it has been on my mind recently,especially as I anticipate a very busy bookish week coming up.

Last week there were various celebrations connected with the 3rd Library and Information Week here in Ghana, including the official launch in Koforidua (Eastern Region), with Ghana’s Second Lady as the Guest of Honour.

Looking forward the annual Ghana International Book Fair will be taking place here in Accra, from Tuesday 3 to Saturday 7 November. There are a lot of workshops and seminars, which bring together those involved in the book chain here in Ghana.

For yours truly though I have to admit that what I really like about the book fair is the chance to stroll around the stands, and see whether there are any titles which strike my fancy.  I know I really don’t need to buy any more books, but I find it very, very difficult to resist, despite overfull TBR shelves.

And in the middle of the Book Fair week, the Ghana Library Association is having its AGM and Seminar, which should be fun, as I have managed to miss several GLA activities over the last year or so.

Accra Book Club reads for 2014 and looking forward to 2015

A recap of the books Accra Book Club read and discussed during 2014

  • Ender’s game, by Orson Scott Card. I know this was on the list, but I can’t remember the discussion. I did eventually watch the film on DSTV, and thought it was pretty well done.  I used to have a physical copy of this book, but somewhere along the line, it disappeared.  So I had to buy a e-copy!
  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – a good discussion. I suspect that a different group would have a very different perspective.  I actually read a Nigerian edition!
  • Dear life, by Alice Munro – brrr, the Canadian climate does permeate these rather bleak stories
  • Kindred, by Octavia Butler – I really like Octavia Butler’s work, and wonder why it took me so long to read them!
  • The Burgess boys, by Elizabeth Strout – a disfunctional family, with locations in New York and Maine. Moving though.
  • The invention of wings, by Sue Monk Kidd – based on historical figures, involved in the abolition of the slave trade
  • The housekeeper and the professor, by Yoko Ogama – I didn’t attend this discussion, but I enjoyed the book which was very different from most of the work I read during this year
  • The lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri – moving account of two brothers and their families in India and the US.  Another physical copy
  • The shining girls, by Lauren Beukes – upon reflection, I found the discussion of this book helped me to understand this book better
  • We need new names, by NoViolet Bulawayo – I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy this book that much; I also wasn’t that sure about having the two different settings of Zimbabwe and the US.  Ironically I bought the e-book, and then discovered that EPP books had loads of physical copies, and for a very, very reasonable price!
  • Euphoria, by Lily King – a love story told from different points of view. A good read.

And because I am aware that some people may be wondering what we are going to read and talk about in 2015, here is our current list of books:

  • Flight behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Memory of love, by Aminatta Forna
  • How to get filthy rich in rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid
  • The woman upstairs, by Claire Messud
  • Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Foreign gods, by Okey Ndibe
  • Don’t let me go, by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • The short and tragic life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
  • Ade, by Rebecca Walker

If anyone wants to know more about Accra Book Club, do comment or send an email to accrabookclub [at] gmail [dot] com.

Ghana and Africa reads for 2014

Usually at the end of a year, or the very beginning of one, I look back and mention books which I categorize as my Ghana and Africa reads. These are either books written by Ghanaians or Africans, wherever they live and write. They can also be written by non-Ghanaians/non-Africans if the topics are either Ghanaian or African.

Ghana reads of 2014

1. Death at the Voyager Hotel, by Kwei Quartey – an ebook, but not featuring Inspector Darko Dawson. Fun. I believe it has now been published here in Ghana?
2. Between sisters, by Adwoa Badoe – a girl who wasn’t that interested in school learns lessons while working for a family in Kumasi
3. Perfectly imperfect, by Ruby Yayra Goka – the 2013 Burt prize 1st place winner. Pretty good.
4. Ossie’s dream, by Nanayaa Amankwah – another Burt prize winner, 2nd place. A bit over the top, in my view.
5. The boy who spat in Sargrenti’s eye, by Manu Herbstein – the 3rd place Burt prize winner. Enjoyable, with wonderful illustrations.
6. No sweetness here and other stories, by Ama Ata Aidoo – a new edition, locally published. The stories still have punch, even after 40 years!

1. Ethnicity and the making of history in Northern Ghana, by Carola Lentz – fascinating account of the Upper West Region especially.
2. Java Hill, by T P Manu Ulzen – a family account of a coastal family. I wish there were more of these.
3. History of West Africa and the Ga (Osu) people, by Narh Omaboe – rather poorly written and published, unfortunately!

I bought eight of my nine Ghana reads here in Ghana – either at book launches, or at local bookshops. The one exception was the lone e-book.   Interestingly four of the six  Ghanaian works of fiction are written for young adults.


Africa reads of 2014

1. Afro SF – Science fiction by African writers, edited by Ivor W Hartmann – I love SF, so these were great.
2. The ghost of Sani Abacha, by Chuma Nwokolo – short stories of contemporary Nigeria.
3. Short stories [supporting Worldreader], by Chika Unigwe – many about diasporan Nigerians.
4. Arrows of rain, by Okey Ndibe – first novel, by now acclaimed author based in the US.
5. Akata witch, by Nnedi Okorafor – young adult novel, with a plucky albino heroine
6. The grass is singing, by Doris Lessing – classic, which I had never read before
7. The spider king’s daughter, by Chibundu Onuzo – a good debut. It doesn’t turn out quite as expected.
8. Distant view of a minaret, by Alifa Rifaat – poignant stories from a North African writers
9. We need new names, by NoViolet Bulawayo – prize winner novel of Zimbabwe and African diasporans in the US
10. Opening spaces – Contemporary African women’s writing, edited by Yvonne Vera – a wide ranging of short stories by African women.
11. Diaries of a dead African, by Chuma Nwokolo – three linked stories, tragic, but comic at the same time.
12. Secret son, by Laila Lalami – what makes a potential terrorist.
13. The shining girls, by Lauren Beukes – the setting is not African, though the author is. About a time-travelling serial killer

1. Women leading Africa, edited Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah – illuminating collection.
2. Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff – biography, yet fairly easy to read. Wish I remembered my “ancient” history better
3. The fastest billion: the story behind Africa’s economic revolution, by Charles Robertson and others – not sure I agree with his prognosis, but it is good to read a more optimistic view of Africa’s future

Out of the sixteen Africa reads, most were bought as physical books from local bookshops here in Accra. I did however buy six e-books (nos 1, 3, 6, 9, 12 and 13 of the Africa fiction list).

I still tend to read most of my books in physical format – about 64% overall for 2014 – though I think the percentage of e-books is probably increasing.

I ended the year having started, but not yet finished, the following:

  • Flight behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver. This is the Accra Book Club read for January 2015. [the only one in e-book format]
  • Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins. The final part of the Hunger Games trilogy. I want to finish this before watching the movie!
  • Exodus, by Paul Collier. On migration.
  • Living in the shadow of the large dams: Long term responses of downstream and lakeside communities of Ghana’s Volta River Project, by Dzodzi Tsikata. Fairly heavily academic, so I dip into this.
  • Human mules, by Carol Larratt. On the kayayei [young female porters] in Accra.

Missed two recent book launches!

I am a little ashamed to admit that I missed two recent book launches that took place in Accra.

Kofi Akpabli launched two books on travel in Ghana:  Romancing Ghanaland and Harmattan.  I haven’t bought copies – yet, but will do so eventually!  For more information on the launch programme and some photos, see http://www.spyghana.com/kofi-akpabli-launches-two-new-books/.

The other is much more controversial.   Prof Kwaku Danso-Boafo’s book J.J. Rawlings and the Democratic Transition in Ghana  has been mired in controversy, with some disagreements between the author, and the main subjects. So all the more reason to get a copy!  See more at http://www.ghanaiantimes.com.gh/book-on-rawlings-launched/