in Kenya. In the sense of being hideously expensive. I have no idea why anything published abroad is priced here at 2-3 times its printed US or UK cover price in Kenya shillings. Except that booksellers can get away with it. Even second-hand books are way more expensive than in Europe or America - and far harder to come by.
Books sold on the streets and market stalls are dusty, battered copies of pulp fiction, or school text books. Libraries are far and few between, with limited stock and opening hours.
A little while ago, I was strolling through Toi, one of Nairobi's huge open-air markets. Toi is where Nairobians in the know go to buy clothes, at a fraction of the price they sell for in the city's shops. The vendors at Toi get their stock from bulk imports of second-hand clothes that charity shops get swamped with in the West, and offload by shipping overseas. I look at all the clothes, and think of the mountains of books that also get discarded in the global North. Of the boxes of free books people put out on the pavements of the San Francisco Bay Area. Of an ex who volunteered with Friends of the Library in Sausalito, and was given the job of dumping truckloads of unwanted books.
In my current book-starved state, that level of abundance - and waste - is painful.
How come those books don't make it to the Third World, the way the clothes do?