Among the many questions that I do often have to confront are: where are you getting your books these days? Is this book easily available in our bookstores? Oh, that experience! Thinking about how easily one can get a book in the city, or who is coming from abroad that I can roder books, is a bit annoying, especially during this time when we are witnessing so many changes happening, and continuing to revolutionise the world.

Unfortunately, bookstores in Dar es Salaam (which is the busiest, most modernised, most advanced and most populated city within Tanzania) are still countable, with a few interesting titles on the shelves for the book lovers. It is very normal not to find books that you would wish to read.

No readers in the city?

A book-seller at one of the most popular stores in a very famous mall in the commercial capital once saidto me, that it is because there are no readers that they had decided to not bring in many books.

But to my surprise, after they had started bringing in and stockinf different interesting titles (apart from the usual inspirational books of ‘be a millionaire in one day’, or the likes of ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’) they hardly had a copy left in the shelfs within a week. This then sent a different message!

Dar es Salaam has readers; arguably lots of them. But with no constant and assured supply of good books, one can never fully appreciate the appetite for reading in the city.

I understand that the question of the level of reading and writing culture in our country can be a bit tricky…but hey, let’s hold hopes to the few (I presume) who are into it and nurture them well with both our hands.

Please lower your appetite as you rest assured you won’t find in Dar the likes of ‘Prestige’ or ‘Bookstop’ of Nairobi or ‘Exclusive Books’ of South Africa. This is the bitter truth.

I understand one can quickly jump and say why not purchase e-books via Amazon or the likes and use kindle. But some avid readers will agree with me that still there are those who love to hold a hard copy and feel it…opening one page after the other…smell the paper…and get the taste it come along with having a hardcopy.

These kinds of readers will have to continue waiting some days or weeks or any period of time until when the books they have ordered arrive in their hands. They will always and constantly keep an eye on who is abroad and beg them to come back home with the titles of books they wish to read next.

The most interesting thing is that in Tanzania we have places that have come to be renowned as hubs of clothes or cheap electronic gadgets from China. From Kariakoo shops to the boutiques of Masaki, Mikocheni, Mwenge and Sinza, these areas are typical clothes hubs. So, this is a matter of priority?

Only source of hope

The only source of hope for the book lover in the city are academic institutions, like universities where a reader can at least feel at home, and access well-stocked bookstores with a wider range of titles.

There is a direct correlation between a reading and writing society and the advancement of sustainable development.

I still have hopes that there is a way we can change things and make our nation better. I am sure at some point we might get businesspersons who can intervene and rescue this situation. In this regard, one can give much respect to the TPH Bookshop for its perseverance over the years, despite the hardships in this industry. I should also acknowledge contributions made by bookshops like MAK Books and Brains, House of Wisdom, and Soma café to mention a few. The appetite of readers is still there…and there are those who more than willing to part with a few thousand shilings for a good book!