MILLIONS of Tanzanians own mobile phone handsets but regrettably the majority pay little attention to the need to own or read books.
In light of the situation therefore, local publishers are now exploring the most convenient 'path' for smooth migration to digital publication era, to allow readers to have access to valid information through online distribution.
Speaking exclusively to the 'Sunday News', the Mkuki na Nyota Managing Director, Mr Walter Bgoya said that it was only a matter of time for publishers to follow the digital path, adding that the new technology would surely help local publishers and the readers as well.
"Whilst this is a great opportunity for publishers in the country because e-publishing minimises the printing costs, but it needs to be done with much care and should not be considered as a tonic that can cure all the ailments," he said.
According to the 2012 Tanzania Mobile Phone Users' Report, at least 59 per cent of adult Tanzanians are subscribers to mobile phone services and the number has increased rapidly over the last five years.
In 2005 radio was the most effective communication tool in
Mr Bgoya said that as a publisher of scholarly books, he was very excited about the opportunities that digital publishing may bring, but was quick to add that there were a number of modalities like the mode of payment that needed to be given serious consideration.
He said that in developed countries e-books were already readily available online and that their mode of payment was by credit cards and though there are some banks in the country with the facility, many hadn't yet effectively established themselves.
"The best way would have been through mobile money outlets where one can send the money of the e-book they want to download, but there is a need to have in place a system that is more direct instead of the one that obliges a reader to call the publisher," he explained.
Mr Bgoya said that he was little convinced that having eBooks by local publishers would help improve the reading culture among Tanzanians, largely because most hand held mobile phones that the majority own have small screen, limiting one to read books with many pages.
He said, however, that during a recent visit up country, he was surprised to see a person reading using his mobile phone after the transport they were using temporarily broke down.
The Costech Director General, Dr Hassan Mshinda told this paper that people in the country owned more mobile phones than books and that to date no technology in the less developed countries had spread wildfire like the mobile phone.
Dr Mshinda said that thanks to the national optic fibre infrastructure that had taken a lesser time to be put in place than the Tazara railway line, mobile phone penetration had been quickened.
"The infrastructure is now in place, what is lacking is the content and it should be the duty of every user to put this content in. We are very concerned that there is no reading culture in the country and this needs to be seriously addressed as we further inch towards becoming a knowledge economy," he cited.
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