Reading Around the Globe: Sakhile from Zimbabwe

“It’s actually more difficult to find books published in African languages than it is to find English, French or Portuguese books. There are writing clubs that support African language authors but they are not as readily available to the public.

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Welcome to Reading Around the Globe, a series here on Reader Voracious Blog geared at fostering a culture of understanding in the bookish community about access to books in various countries around the world. Each post in the series highlights a full interview with one international reader. You can read more about this series and catch up on previous interviews on the master post.

  1. What is your name? Sakhile
  2. Blog URL? Sakhile Whispers
  3. Twitter handle? @sakhilewhispers
  4. Where do you live? South Africa, originally from ZImbabwe
  5. Do you find that there is a culture of reading where you live? If not, tell us a bit how you came to be one! There’s definitely a culture of reading of reading. It might be different and not as complicated.
  6. What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? My favourite genre is contemporary fiction but once in a while I find a fantasy book that I love. I prefer YA but unfortunately, there isn’t a very wide range of it in African Literature although an organisation called AfroYA is aiming to fix that and I am super excited for what they have in store for us.
  7. Have you always been a reader? From as young as I can remember. My mother was a teacher so she would bring my sisters and I books from the school she worked in.
  8. Do you also read books published in your native language/published locally to you? If so, tell us a bit about what kinds of books are published in your country! English is the official language where I’m from and in South Africa, so a lot of books are published in that language. The last time I read a book in IsiNdebele and IsiZulu was for school. We learn in English and our native languages are more of a secondary language and subject. I can speak, read and write in my native language but it would take me a week to finish a book written in IsiNdebele or IsiZulu that would take me a day to read in English.
  9. Are there libraries where you live? If so, what kinds of books can you find there? Are you able to get the books that you want? I grew up in the second largest city in Zimbabwe and there was one public library and you had to collect popular books such as Harry Potter at the special section and pay for them. In South Africa the library situation is a little better. There are libraries in every district but the selection isn’t very good. You can find a recent release and by recent I mean 2015.
  10. How prevalent are English published books where you live in bookstores? (For example, books printed by HarperCollins.) It’s actually more difficult to find books published in African languages than it is to find English, French or Portuguese books. There are writing clubs that support African language authors but they are not as readily available to the public.
  11. Do you use NetGalley or Edelweiss to request electronic galleys for review? If so, what kind of success rate would you estimate for you personally? 99% of the books on NetGalley are not available for request but sometimes I get lucky and I am able to request a book that I actually like. I sent a request once on Edelweiss which was obviously denied and I haven’t used it since.
  12. Do you experience hurdles or barriers to access for the kinds of books that you read? Please explain if so. So many hurdles. Physical books are criminally expensive in this country. A new release at a book store will be anything from ZAR300. Shipping costs are insane so Amazon is a no go. Book Depository is unreliable as it’s a huge risk to spend money on there because it can take anything from 6 months to never receiving your book. Ebooks are the easiest and cheapest way to access books but sometimes they aren’t available in my country or they cost even more than a physical book which is unfair.
  13. If you could make one change to the publishing landscape, what would you do? Make ebooks available internationally and cheaper than a physical book. I bought a book last month another blogger said it was on special for $1.99 so I click on the link to buy it and the price from my country is actually $12.99, this is an ebook, the physical book was even less which makes no sense. The publishing industry has to be aware that people outside of US/AUS/UK/EU read books right? I understand the issue with licenses but it honestly can’t be that difficult to obtain a license to sell a book in a particular country.
  14. Help other international bloggers out… What resources do you use to obtain the books that you want to read? I am subscribed to bookbub.com which lets me know when certain titles and books by authors I follow are on special or free on Amazon. This site is so helpful because books tend to be insanely expensive when you factor in the exchange rate. I purchase most of my physical books from secondhand shops.
  15. Do you have any other experiences as a reader around the world that you would like to share? Answering these questions has got me thinking about the importance of language. Living in a place where your language is secondary, deemed not as important as English, French or Portuguese really messes with our culture. I have little cousins who can’t read in IsiNdebele and probably never will and that makes me sad.

Please note that all experiences reflected in the interviews are personal and are not meant to generalize what reading access is like in each country. If you are interested in participating please DM me on Twitter.


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8 Comments

  1. TheCaffeinatedReader

    August 3, 2019 at 2:37 PM

    AfroYA sounds amazing, and I hope someday the world becomes more internationally accepting of books, your native language should really be upheld and appreciated, and I love that answering the questions had you thinking about that, and I totally agree, internationally ebooks should definitely be cheaper, and I wish there weren’t copyright restrictions so you could use NetGalley more <3 I loved reading your answers!

    1. Kal

      August 4, 2019 at 11:28 AM

      I loved Sakhile’s answers, too! I really wish that publishing restrictions weren’t a thing, at least for eBooks. That would really help with access a bit (although with that comes the privilege of having a device to read an eBook on, so not perfect).

      1. TheCaffeinatedReader

        August 4, 2019 at 11:34 AM

        True, a device can be just as hard to get your hands on sometimes, but I guess we’ll just have to keep pushing for ebook restrictions to lift AND tackle the costs of ereaders

    2. Sakhile

      August 4, 2019 at 9:20 PM

      I really hope something good will come out of AfroYA because there’s definitely a market for YA books in Africa we just need something like AfroYA to get them out there. It’s strange that we have copyright restrictions in SA because some of the big name publishers have headquarters here 🤷

  2. Theelderbooks

    August 3, 2019 at 10:15 PM

    I had no idea how difficult it could be to access books in Zimbabwe ! Thanks for sharing !

    1. Kal

      August 4, 2019 at 11:35 AM

      Thank you so much for reading, and I think it is easy to forget that people in other countries don’t have the same access we do in the US/UK.

  3. Ibukun

    August 7, 2019 at 10:49 AM

    I can relate to what she said about accessing books in her language vs English. On one hand, it means that we don’t experience translation problems with mainstream books, but on the other hand, it shows how some languages are seen as not as important as others. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Kal

      August 19, 2019 at 5:10 PM

      I never really put much thought into works in translation until the last couple of years because of my privilege of English being my native language, but the more I hear firsthand from people their experiences the more I want to learn about the business decisions behind it. I am sorry that publishing is this way but I do hope it gets better, and thanks so much for stopping by!

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