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#Discourse: Nigeria’s Reading Culture, Piracy and Patabah at 30

In existence for 30 years, Patabah has been home to book lovers, stocking the finest of literary pieces, including the works of both established and new Nigerian authors, as well as foreign ones. Founded by Ore Soremekun, Patabah is indeed a chill haven in the heart of Surulere Shopping mall. With cool 90’s music playing in the background, I had a chat with Patabah’s manager who shed some light on the Nigerian reading culture, piracy and authors Patabah has hosted at its beloved book readings. Shedding some light on Patabah, he says,

‘My name is Charles Chima. I have been in patabah for a very long time. All my life is dedicated to books. I love the smell of books. I encourage my family and friends. Patabah is so kind in giving out books, if you have money or if you don’t have money.They give out books to encourage people to read. Patabah goes to schools and universities to do promos.’

On customers’ demand for books, he says,
‘There isn’t too much difference in the demand for foreign books and Nigerian books. People love foreign as well as African books. Theres a 50-50 demand. For children’s books, foreign books sell more. Not a lot of Africans have the time to write children’s books. They prefer to write adult books. Patabah really appreciates authors who take out the time to write children’s books because it helps children read. That’s why we keep encouraging them with things like book readings.’

On the Nigerian reading culture, he explains,
‘Some people would say Nigerians dont read. It’s not true because someone could come to Patabah and spend 40-50,000 naira on books. But the situation of the country makes people slow on their reading. They are trying. ‘

I laugh heartily at the word trying and then I ask about the indemic issue: piracy, and he says,

‘Patabah says no to piracy. Most of our books come from the UK and America, apart from Nigerian books. We stock them here. There is a war against piracy, and federal and state governments need to keep an eye on it.’

‘An author writes a book, and after one month, you go to the bus stop and you see other people selling the books. And sometimes when we stock a book, like 50 to 100 copies, before you know it, the selling would be slow because people would buy cheaper from the pirates. They would sell it N1000, while your own is N3500. Actually, I don’t know where they pirate all these books. I don’t know whether they do it in the night or in the morning. Sometimes I get confused.  When I get to Ojuelegba or Yaba, I see a lot of pirated books and I ask myself whether the government is still checking piracy. That’s why in Patabah, we assure people of buying original books. Any book you buy here is assured to be 100% original. The Government Task Force usually comes around here and they go through the books to know the kind of books we are selling.

I muse at the thought that this means there’s some regulation and enforcement.

Charles Chima however emphasizes this:

‘Why I believe they come is because this place is a big place. They can come whenever they see something and they are able to capture that person. They don’t really have time to go to smaller stores, and that is where you can find a lot of piracy.’

As regards authors hosted by Patabah, Charles explains’

‘Authors come here and we promote them by having book readings and putting their books online. It is not all authors that are financially and technologically equipped to put their books online.When you go online and check Patabah, you can see the new authors. To promote authors and the reading culture, we invite friends and customers to our book readings. We have had Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ayobami Adebayo, author of ‘Stay With Me’, Seffi Atta, as well as authors of poetry.

People say ‘I don’t like poetry’, But sometimes, there’s fun in poetry that people don’t know. More people like short stories or long stories, etc. We try to encourage people to read books on poetry.’

Hope you enjoyed reading this brief interview?

Where is your favourite place tp shop for books?

Who are your favourite authors?

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