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ZIBF slowly losing its lustre

By Brandon Tonderai Ndemera

Physical literature is fast losing its lustre as digital literature seems to have taken over. This was evidenced during the just-ended Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF).

This year’s book expo, the 36th edition, was held at the Harare Gardens from last Monday and ended yesterday. The six-day book jamboree was running under the
theme; Footprints of the Book: Milestones & Opportunities.

However, the book fair failed to rise to its billing when it opened its gates to the public on Wednesday with a low turn-out on the four days.

Stakeholders who spoke to Standard Style said the low turnout could be attributed to a number of factors, including the general downturn in the country’s
economy and the “dearth of enthusiasm among physical book consumers”.

The proliferation of technology, social media and virtual book clubs has led to the internet taking over from the print medium. This has meant a lot of cuts
for the publishing and print industry and in-turn less promoters and consumers for local writers.

Local publishing company Consultus Publishing Services (CPS) operations director Masimba Madondo spoke on the importance of understanding the shifting market
and adjusting to meet the demands.

“We see the advent of technology and we are currently working with RAVA Chishona Controlled readers, Akello Books.com as well as Tusitawi Digital Classroom to
create content that matches the shifting market, it’s all explained on our website,” Madondo said.

Sunshine Sign Language, who produces literature resources for people with hearing impairments, has begun breaking ground on developing efficient technology
that allows disabled people to interact with other people as well as read, write, and decode text.

“We are working to develop audio-based apparatus for the blind and integrating braille with tactile technology to help create a better way for the visually-impaired to interact with the world around them,” a representative manning the company’s stand at ZIBF said.

The Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) has since begun offering courses in sign language, capping their first batch of 23 students who came from all over the
country recently.

Efforts to contact ZIBF chairman Memory Chirere were fruitless on Friday, but sources close to the country’s book fete told Standard Style that ZIBF was slowly
losing its lustre.

“Last year, the turnout was poor as well as people are now more inclined to the internet. Social media has taken over and people are spending most of their
time going through social media platforms,” the source said.

“The other issue is that the economy is taking its toll on everyone, including book lovers although I have also noticed a decline in the reading culture in the
country.”

However there was a glimmer of hope as a few primary schools exhibited including Glenview 7 Primary School who attended the school section of the fair which
was open to teachers, students and members of the Public.

Professor Mapuranga from the Zimbabwe Open University enlightened on the availability of support that’s not being utilised by people who doubt their artistic
ability saying.

“People need to continue to write more, they need to realise how much potential supporters are out there ready to back them,” Mapuranga said.

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