Books from the festival
Books bought at the festival

The Nigerian Book International Book Festival (NIBF) happened at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos state, Nigeria from May 11 – 16. Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi the Parrésia Managing Director and Managing Editor was one of the people who attended. She tells us about her view of this years fete.

The first time I attended the Nigerian Book International Book Festival was in either 2007 or 2008, okay so I’ve forgotten, and thankfully I’m entitled to it. But this date is important to establish how long I’ve attended this particular book fair. First as a book lover who was giddy with excitement, wide-eyed at all the books I saw and almost fainted from the weight of books I bought as I dragged them home.

By the second and third year, I was much calmer but still totally excited at the sight of so many books in one place. Then in the significant year of 2010, while I worked with Farafina, I didn’t just attend the bookfair as a book lover who only saw books, my eyes began to open to the publishers, the books they brought, the size of their stands and the wonderment of why there were so many Indian publishers and the role they played. In 2012, I attended the NIBF as a publisher and a book lover still. In that year, we shared a stand with co-booksellers but not publishers RovingHeights and even then a few things still eluded me but I was beginning to have a clearer understanding of the inner workings of these gatherings.

In 2013 and 2014, I was absent and came back in 2015. And although it was the same venue where all the other NIBF fairs had held, it was, however, the most disappointing I had attended. And for the simple reason that Nigerian publishing houses or the contemporary one’s, as I refer to them, were all absent. The overall attendance of the book fair itself was low. Where I would once visit the fair every single day in search of something I must have missed, I roamed about for two days searching for things that were not there.

There were lots of stalls labelled but were empty. You had some of the regulars like Macmillian still making an appearance but occupying much smaller stands than I had seen them occupy in the previous years when I attended. But then you had EPP Ghana occupying the equivalent of six stands. Selling books that barely left their boxes, selling the African Writers Series way cheaper than everyone else and you wondered what magic they wrought or what they knew to do that others didn’t know.

The NIBF attendance this year was mixed for me. After been away for two years, I expected to see more. More of the second-hand booksellers who usually sold amazing books for N100 outside stands were all absent. The attendance of more booksellers than publishers that translated to mean either the publishers didn’t think the fair was economically relevant, or it was the representation of the economic state in terms of affordability. And the ever present Indian publishers marketing the advantage to publish with them rather than in your own country was disturbing as usual.

So what exactly did I take away from NIBF 2015, well, a few books gleefully purchased and the overwhelming disappointment and knowledge that it could be much better.