The Ministry of Sports and Culture has said deepening the reading culture among Rwandans, competitiveness among writers as well reducing the cost of locally published books will expand the market of the books, subsequently allowing for mass production of local content.
Patrice Rugambwa, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Sports and Culture, made the remarks on Wednesday at the opening of a three-day exhibition of books written and published in Rwanda.
The event was organised in partnership with Rwanda Art Council, Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture (RALC), Save the Children, and Rwanda Archives and Library Services Authority.
It aims at raising awareness on local content, developing and support writers and publishers, inculcating reading culture in the youth, and joining efforts to develop printing and publishing industries in Rwanda.
Rugambwa said that a reading culture is a pillar of sustainable development, especially when it is inculcated in the youth.
“Improving the reading culture among Rwandans is one of the ways that will help writers and publishers get market for their products. We have hope that their associations that have been set up will also continue to work together, and share ideas on how best to package their products,” he said.
There are no updated figures on the status of the reading culture in Rwanda but the heritage of oral literature is still affecting reading culture, according to Rugambwa.
At the event, the writers and publishers bemoaned the low uptake of the reading culture, saying that some books remain on the shelves for years while publishing prices remain high due to few writers.
“Because of few people who are interested in buying books, some books, especially story books can spend about two years in a store.
“This does not only affect income generation for writers but also affect publishers because they still have few clients who bring content for publishing,” said Thierry Uwamungu, a designer at Highland Publishers LTD.
According to Fiston Mudacumura, publishing a book is very expensive and prices can only come down if there are many writers seeking their service.
“It is true, publishing prices are still high. For example, if a book costs Rwf2, 000, the publishing price should be Rwf700 but when it is published at Rwf1,000, it eats into the seller’s profit margin,” he said.
Rugambwa said only two books by local writers and publishers won public tenders last year– for production and supply of Mathematics and Civic Education textbooks to use in primary schools.