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Longhorn bets on digital books to open new revenue chapter

Pupils use laptops to conduct their studies. Longhorn Publishers has positioned itself to provide digital content for learners. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA
Pupils use laptops to conduct their studies. Longhorn Publishers has positioned itself to provide digital content for learners. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA 

Longhorn Publishers is betting on digital books to reach a wider audience and grow its revenue.

The only Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE)- listed publisher in an interview with the Business Daily said it has digitised all its books available on hardcopy and are currently available on Amazon and Worldreader.

The firm has also signed a partnership with Samsung to avail its digitised content on its devices and is also seeking partnership with local mobile telecommunication firms to offer the same.

Simon Ngigi, Longhorn managing director said that other than reducing the printing costs, digital content is easy and faster to distribute.

The publisher is also targeting to capture the tech savvy and the youth who prefer interacting with computer devices as opposed to hardcopy books.

“What we see in the coming years is that more and more revenue will be generated from the digital books,” Mr Ngigi said.

“By availing all our books in digital formats, this is not only a win to us but also to our customers since the pricing of the digital books is almost half the cost of the hardcopies which offers quite some savings to our clients,” he added.

To mitigate the chances of copyright infringement of the digitised books he said that all the books are encrypted by the IT platform providers they have partnered with.

“As a matter of fact we are experiencing more abuse of copyright infringement on our hardcopy books compared to the digitised versions,” Mr Ngigi said.

The firm which recorded a 24.4 per cent drop in net profit following reduced sales in the year ended June 30, is also targeting county governments with its digitised content .

The company registered Sh71.7 million in profit after tax compared to Sh94.9 million made in the previous year.

During the same period, the firm’s revenues dipped by 39.3 per cent to Sh848.4 million compared to Sh1.4 billion in the same period last year.

The book-selling company, suffered from low sales that was also reflected in the decline in the gross profit by 30.1 per cent to stand at Sh474.6 million.

“The reduction in the turnover was mitigated by significant saving in the company’s selling and distribution costs in the exports markets,” the firm said in a statement issued last week.

Reap big

Longhorn’s push for digital books comes on the backdrop of a government initiative to avail all pupils with computer devices starting January. That means reading materials to be used must be provided in the digital format.

Publishers, animators and local universities are among those tipped to reap big from Kenya’s Sh17 billion Digital Literacy Programme.

Victor Kyalo, the ICT Authority chief executive said time was long overdue for Kenya’s education sector to go digital, adding that opportunities presented by the shift far outweigh the costs.

“The next phase of the knowledge economy will require a smart society where people can exploit their talents, identify opportunities and be able to grow with those opportunities,” he said.

Last week David Waweru the Kenya Publishers Association chairman pointed out that the initiative will only pay off provided that, among other things, freedom of the Press is preserved by stakeholders.

“The spirit of digital is to provide more opportunities to readers, writers, and content creators; not limiting options. It is about greater liberalisation of content creation and provision, not about consolidation,” he said during the launch of the 18th Nairobi International Book Fair at Nairobi’s Sarit Centre.

“As publishers, we must engage top gear in creating digital content. Having said that, we believe that the digital book will coexist with the physical book; the two are not mutually exclusive,” he added.

The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) also organised a conference from yesterday to October 2 that features renowned researchers, innovators, and practitioners across all levels of education in Kenya, providing delegate’s with insights on the latest trends and practical tools for the advancement of mobile and online learning.

“Advancements in technology are not limited to just improving how processes or machines work, but are now taking centre stage in how teaching and learning occur,” KICD said in a statement.

Other than the publishers’ computing device manufacturers have recently unveiled devices targeting e- learning.

Last week BRCK Education, a division of BRCK - a Nairobi based technology firm –launched its BRCK KioKit into the market.

The tablet, a component of a portable kit made up 40 ruggedised BRCK Kio tablets that cost Sh524,497 ($5,000) will be running web-based content and locally cached videos that will offer the pupils exposure to educational information.

A piece cost Sh10,385 ($99). The firm has also entered into partnership with several international and local organisations such as Pearson, Intel- Education, e-Limu, Know-Zone, and e-Kitabu in an effort to refine learners’ experience of accessing digital content.

“We wanted to take a holistic approach to education, hence the design of an easy to use digital solution that is uniquely tailored for the African environment. We are deploying a content-agnostic solution that allows us to curate localised and culturally relevant digital content that will improve the learning experience and give a digital edge to millions of children across the continent,” said Erik Hersman, BRCK CEO during the launch.

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