A number of Kenyan parents with children in school have been forced to adopt ways to wade through the tough economic times with schools set to reopen on Tuesday 26.
A spot check in Nairobi found quite a number of parents lining up at second-hand textbook stalls looking to get used books for the next class.
Interestingly – these are not your normal customers out to buy some of the used books on display on the dusty pavements.
They are here to trade in books; giving out a few of their old books, which they no longer need, in exchange for what they need for the next class.
“I have a daughter who is proceeding to Grade 2, and I don’t have money to buy new books at the moment,” Anita Otieno told Wananchi.
She had with her six textbooks – carefully tucked inside her bag – and had so far managed to exchange three.
“I only added some Ksh100 for each of the books. That’s Sh300, and I have three books,” she says before hurrying away.
John Kamau who sells second-hand books in Nairobi told Wananchi Reporting that he receives many customers who just want to trade in books.
“Most of my customers come in to exchange old books; giving us some of the old ones they have, and in exchange we give them what they want,” said Kamau.
Asked how much he charges – Kamau said the trade in fees varies depending on the condition of the book and the demand.
Still, quite a number of Kenyans have been trooping to bookshops to grab a few copies.
“I prefer authentic books from original textbook sellers. This is because I have five children, and the books are supposed to serve them all,” Phillis Njoroge told Wananchi.
According to Kamau – Trade ins was not very popular in the past – but that the trend is gaining currency especially due to tough economic times.
There are a lot of myths about second-hand bookstores, which has made them not as popular as they once were.
Then there’s the issue of piracy – which is denying most publishers sleep.
“Some people believe that our used bookstores encourage theft of books in schools. Some look at us as an industry encouraging book piracy. That is not entirely true,” says Kamau, adding that they operate under some agreed laws as book traders.
He for instance said he does not take government books sponsored tex-books, or school books that bare rubber stamps.
Asked when the business experiences a boom – Kamau said – the business often sees a considerable spike just after KCSE exams – and when students are beginning a new class.