Nigerians are constantly creating apps and services that make life in Nigeria easier and more convenient. One of such apps is Okadabooks, an app by Okechukwu Ofili, an author who describes himself in his Twitter bio as a “Ninja-cardio-thoracic-engineering-writer”.
Okadabooks is an app that provides local and international books to you on your phone. With over 7,000 books available in-app, Okadabooks aims to make it easier for people to access books in Nigeria – especially those by local authors.
“What drives Okadabooks is the belief that Nigerians read,” says Ofili. “We are sick and tired of people saying Nigerians don’t read. The thing is that readers have evolved, and the publishers haven’t evolved with the reading culture”
The frustrating book industry
Being an author himself, Ofili experienced first-hand the frustrations of the book industry. Major bookstores in Nigeria owed him over 1.5 Million from book sales, and he didn’t get his money until he voiced his frustrations on social media and major blogs.
“It was frustrating,” he said of the bookstore issue. “I started to think, ‘What about the people that actually need this to survive?”
Ofili decided to take control and approached funmobile – a Value Added Service (like the ones that tell you to text a word to a number to get a ringtone, game, wallpaper etc), to get his books (How Stupidity Changed My Life, How Laziness Changed My Life) directly to people in Nigeria.
What triggered his idea was when he looked around bookstores in Lagos for Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and didn’t find it until he got to the Houston International Airport
“I think its ironic that its easier to find our writers in foreign lands than it is to find them in our land,” he says.
Eliminating the middle man
Funmobile let MTN subscribers SMS “laziness” or “stupidity” to a certain number and they got either book on their phones for N200 (deducted from their credit). The thought of expanding the service to host more books inspired the idea that created Okadabooks as it is available today.
As of a few weeks ago, users could only pay for books with call credit on their phones, but with their most recent update, users can pay for books with Paga, GTB, Zenith Bank Direct Transfer, and PayPal.
“The limitations with with SMS is we only get 20% of the money back.” said Ofili. “Now we get at least 80% so we can give the authors more by doing away with the SMS system”
The new version comes with Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah, and in they hope to add books by classical authors like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri and Cyprian Ekwensi soon.
Upon installing the app, you can read a free sample of most paid books by just creating an account. You only need to pay for certain books as most the books in the app are free anyway – the paid ones can be anywhere up to N300. Books like Americanah have the first 100 pages available for free.
Available for free in the app are the Bible, Nigerian Constitution, past JAMB and WAEC questions. Regarding the choice to have these books up for free, Ofili says “people can utilize it as an educational resource.”
His proposal to publishers is for them to let Okadabooks digitize their books for free “in exchange for exclusivity to distribute them within the Nigerian market digitally.”
Why the name, “Okadabooks”?
Regarding the name of the app, Ofili says, “Just like Lagos traffic, the book industry is at a bureaucratic deadlock, and the way people get through Lagos traffic is to use okadas to get the from point A to point B.”
“We’re hoping Okadabooks goes past the bureaucracy of our book distribution system and jumps over everything, putting books directly in people’s handsets.”
To celebrate the release of their new version, Okadabooks is giving us N500 in book credit to give to five readers. (Trust me, it’s something) Just let us know if you’re interested in the comments. The first five to comment get in on it