GOOD books mean money. This is true whether we’re talking about novels or set textbooks for secondary school pupils or primers on surgery for the specialist consulting surgeon.
And, all good books suffer a common fate: piracy. When one Daniel Defoe first published his epic novel, Robinson Crusoe in 1719, for instance, there were five reprints within four months of its first publication. Another reprint followed the author’s death in 1731.
Almost immediately, the novel was pirated, plagiarized, abridged and imitated in English, and translated into French, German and Dutch. Within the first half-century there were forty imitations in German alone.
We are citing this foreign example for two simple reasons; One is that piracy – of any good work of art – is universal and, Two, others have since found better ways to deal with pirates while we’re just walking into it like starry-eyed tourists shopping for curios from Makonde carvers.
For every good textbook, set aside as must-read for either ‘O’ or ‘A’ Level students, there’s an idle mind out there ready to pounce and make a killing.
And, they do not make such a good job of it themselves. They will only make a few changes on the main text, and then get the services of graphics designers to make a few more others, and presto: they think they have a new book on the market.
Since most parents do not take the trouble to check, leave alone read, what their kids bring home for ‘prep’ assignments, the poor children then continue reading the ‘phony’ books believing they are on their way to success in life.
All this time, however, the only people carving their way from ‘rags to rhapsody’ are the pirates. But we do believe that the government, and this administration in particular, has the wherewithal to deal with these crooks squarely in their own game.
It will have to start at the home, though, especially for those parents who can muster a modicum of reviews of the books their children bring home.
We do not believe it’s an entirely impossible task, given the determination thus far exemplified by Prof Joyce Ndalichako, the Minister for Education, Science and Technology.
We believe, too, that Parliament will give her the support her ministry needs to deal with this racket once for all.