Why Developing Countries Need More Books

Despite a large percentage of the world population living in the continent of Asia, home to almost two-thirds of all the people in the world and a predominantly young population, it is a travesty that students still have to search for a good academic book shop in faraway places to meet their educational requirements in most of the countries in Asia.

The developments in the field of printing and publishing have come as a boon to people all around the world. We can now buy good quality books at significantly low prices. Be it a book on self-improvement, an academic book on physics, chemistry, or mathematics, historical fiction, or the latest non-fiction, books are being published, bought, and read by millions of readers across the world. However, access to books is not equal everywhere, especially in Asia and Africa.

Reasons for the paucity of books in developing countries

The scarcity of books in developing countries in this day and age feels criminal. Especially in this day and age, when the advancements in digital and print business have made it possible for book lovers to get access to all kinds of books. Even if a book is out of circulation, it is possible to locate it online. However, this access is limited to only a few countries and the privilege is not extended to those less fortunate.

Here are three major reasons for the disparity in the availability of books in developing countries in Asia and Africa.

  • High inequality: According to Oxfam, a non-profit organization that comes up with the Global Inequality Report every year, Asia is at a ‘crossroads’ with an estimated 500 million people below the poverty line. When such a huge group of people is fighting for basic survival, how are they supposed to enjoy the finer aspects of life such as browsing through an academic book shop to buy books mandated by their school curriculum? curling up with a book. Even in India, where the literacy rate has improved at a good rate and the government has made significant progress in the education sector through several welfare schemes, the reading and comprehension skills among the disadvantaged section are far behind the urban privileged. Even UNESCO has noted that there is a need for ‘remedial action’ in developing countries as far as providing access to books to all sections of society is concerned.
  • Lack of infrastructure: It has been observed that there are a lot of infrastructural problems when it comes to the supply of books in the developing countries of Asia. The infrastructure development is highly skewed in favor of urban areas and the rural areas are left in apathy. Students have to travel long distances to meet their educational needs. Even academic books like mathematics for engineers, which should be easily available in a nearby shop or delivered online can be an immense time-consuming deal for such students. These are mainly due to a shortage of domestic publishers and e-commerce penetration in the hinterlands. This in turn perpetuates inequality in educational attainments and skills. Similar is the case in Africa. The countries in this part of the world desperately need bookstores both digital and physical that can supply affordable yet superior quality books that would eventually bridge the educational inequality in the world.
  • Supply chain bottlenecks: Other than the lack of e-commerce penetration and infrastructural problems like poor internet connection due to the absence of enough mobile towers and optical fibers, there are other bottlenecks that have plagued the book distribution business. In many developing countries you would find several complications in the domestic publishing industry that hinders the book flow supply such as poor quality paper supply, lax copyright regime, tariff obstacles, and currency restrictions. Above all is the lack of a reliable distributing service. These restrictions have imposed a huge price on these countries in the form of poor demographic dividends. These countries need a quick revamp of their laws and regulations to facilitate publishing and distribution businesses to flourish and fill the supply void.

Nut Graf

No child should be devoid of the writings of great authors. Every child should broaden their imagination by reading P.G Wodehouse, discover their inner adventure through the works of Ruskin Bond or Enid Blyton, know about different aspects of human nature from Shakespeare’s works, and read biographies of great men to build leadership skills. They should also be able to explore the work of brilliant scientists like Richard Feynman and Stephen Hawking by ordering their books from a nearby academic book shop. For this to happen, there’s an immediate need to enable access to all kinds of books along with clearing supply-chain bottlenecks, especially in Asian countries. Certain companies are trying hard to turn this vision into reality by making high-quality books available to every book lover so that no one is deprived of their favorite books anymore.