E-readers in Accra Book Club

I belong to Accra Book Club [we don’t have a website, but if you are interested, leave a comment below], which is a group of mostly women who meet once a month over a meal to discuss a book or books. I do mention it fairly frequently in this blog.  We’ve been in existence for about seven years or so, and usually we’ve made our book selections for six months or so in advance.  The main reasons for doing this – at least when we started – were:

– this allowed members some time to source the books to be discussed
– members might often share one copy of a book
– chosing locally available titles
– allowed individuals to plan reading

We often chose books which were not available in the limited local bookshops here in Accra.  Alternatives were:  borrowing from a friend/colleague/fellow reader, buying books when travelling or relying on someone who could actually buy books outside and have them shipped to Ghana.  I know that I have used all these alternatives in the past, but for some of us, regular travel of say more than twice a year, was not part of our lives.  Nor did some of us have regular access to regular, straightforward shipments from outside Ghana.  But on the whole we did manage.

At least one bookshop I know – Vidya Bookstore – has ordered books which the Accra Book Club recommended – but delivery times were not as speedy as some would wish, plus prices were not “cheap”.  Buying books personally from a site such as Amazon is not difficult, but the freight for delivery to Ghana, even from the UK, is huge, almost doubling the price of whatever you try and buy.  And woe betide you if you tried ordering books from Amazon.com and having them shipped here; at least one order took ten weeks, despite there being regular transatlantic flights and daily flights to Ghana from Europe!  Needless to say I was not pleased.

Borrowing a book after someone had read it was always a possibility, especially if a member had read a title early.  On occasion we chose African writers that were published in the African Writers Series, mainly because it was very easy to get a copy of the books in Accra

But how things have changed, even here in Ghana!   

At the last gathering of Accra Book Club, every one present either had an e-reader with them, or at home.  One had been a very early adopter, and even mentioned that she had ordered a Kindle Fire! But others had probably bought them, or been given them, during the last few months. And most probably because it is an international group, all had Kindles – as opposed to Nooks, or iPads or other tablets.  I suspect also that many were just the ordinary wifi versions, even though most of us did not download books in Ghana through wifi, but rather through laptops or pcs.  For those used to simply clicking on a book and having it download automatically to one’s device, having to ad the transfer from laptop may seem to be a burden.  But I am sure that for many of us who have “suffered” because we couldn’t find enough books to read here, having a Kindle and being able to download more or less whatever one wants to buy with a few clicks – and admittedly an internet connection – is absolutely wonderful.  It is true that the environment does have an impact:  you do have to have a credit card to buy from Amazon (which is probably a big issue for most Ghanaians), you do have to have an internet connection (becoming less of an issue with the proliferation of mobile internet access) but with these even those of us based here could access what Amazon has to offer.

And that is a big change.  Now when we make selections, usually the problem is with items that are not on Kindles.  Otherwise we just go ahead.

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Bookish activities in September 2011

When I started writing this, I thought September hadn’t been a particular active month for me on the books side.  But then upon reviewing it I realized it wasn’t as quiet as I had originally thought!

I bought nine books at local bookshops here in Accra:

  • 2 cookery books – I just can’t resist buying these, though I don’t always cook from them!
  • 1 novel – one of Boris Akunin’s books, The winter queen, which I had heard of on BBC World Book Club podcast
  • 2 art books
  • 2 pamphlets for visitors/tourists:  one on Twi and the other on Old Accra
  • 2 copies of Ama Ataa Aidoo’s The days, to be given to children as gifts

And then there were two freebies downloaded to my Kindle.

I only completed two books – which for me is unusual:

  • Flat earth news, by Nick Davies:  non-fiction on the media andvery relevant in the days of scandals from the Murdoch empire
  • The historian, by Elizabeth Kostova:   probably the main reason why I didn’t finish many books, as this is over 700 pages long!  An entertaining vampire story

The last couple of weeks of the month was busy.

I went to GAWBOFEST – briefly, as I mentioned in an earlier post.  Like others, I look forward to more of such events, though I know there is a lot of effort involved in organizing them.

Next was one of the Writers Project of Ghana events at the Goethe Institut with Camynta Baezie reading from his novel The African agenda.  I had bought the book a couple of years ago, and quite enjoyed it – an international thriller with African characters!  A pity though that there weren’t more people attending.  I know Goethe Institut puts information onto its website, and sends out emails, and Writers Project also sends out information via Twitter, but maybe these means are still not enough to bring people in?  I guess it also depends on how much publicity the authors themselves do.

And there was a gathering for Accra Book Club, after a gap of couple of months, to discuss Diane Setterfield’s The thirteenth tale. .  The book is a contemporary “gothic” with tales within tales, but with lots of references to reading, writing and books. That was fun.  And we planned our readings for the next six months or so, which was good.

So that was my September on the personal literary side.