Publishers are losing up to Sh200 million annually to piracy of set books, amid revelations the culprits have upgraded to offshore printing.
Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) notes that set books for secondary schools are among the fast-moving learning materials unscrupulous traders target.
“Piracy on secondary school set books is costing publishers up to Sh200 annually and it is no longer a backstreet business,” said Kamau Kiarie, the chairman of KPA.
The revelations come at a time the Form Ones are preparing to report to schools starting January 30, with set books being on the list of their must-have requirements.
Piracy has increased over the recent past with the copies going for the same price as the original, even as publishers lament unresolved lawsuits dragging in courts for years.
In Kenya, the maximum desirable timeline for a case to have been finalised from the date of filing is one year, with any lawsuit exceeding this being considered a backlog.
Mr Kiarie notes that pirated books contain errors that occur during the scanning of the original copies, misleading learners.
Some of the books have contents crammed from old editions, which are encased in covers of current editions,
“We suspect that some crooked main booksellers are also engaging in the vice,” he said.
The unscrupulous traders take advantage of technology to copy books which closely resemble the original prints, selling through bookshops, street vendors or directly to parents and schools, leaving publishers counting losses.
Publishing is a vast investment in content creation, editorial work, engaging book designers, warehousing, marketing, and legal and financial aspects such as paying royalties to authors of the books.
Mr Kiarie said piracy of textbooks significantly went down when the government introduced the direct procurement of learning materials in 2015 that locked out brokers from the textbook supply chain.
The State supplies textbooks directly to schools aiming to achieve a 1:1 textbook-to-student ratio to improve learning.
Before the policy, the government would send capitation to schools and leave headteachers to buy the books for the institutions.
This approach saw brokers infiltrate the supply chain, roping in school head teachers who, without following laid-down procurement laws, gave them tenders to supply the books.