Why Nigerians No Longer Read Books

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As an author especially one residing in Nigeria, one of the many questions I get asked a lot is “Why Don’t Nigerians Read Books?” Almost every literary event from book readings to speaking engagements to discussion forums ask that same exact question! OK ok they don’t ask that exact question, but it comes in different variations such as “What happened to the reading culture of Nigeria,” “Why don’t kids read anymore” and “Jesus read the Bible but my kids no wan read Bible.” Almost immediately following the questions is a diabolical attack that often begins with “in my days”

In my days kids walked to the library and borrowed books, now the only place they walk to is the couch to talk on their cellphones.

In my days we read Chinua Achebe now kids only want to discuss Paris Hilton and Linda Ikeji.

In my days we discussed books with our friends and families, now kids only discuss rubbish on facebook and twitter.

Whenever I hear this I always look around quiet. Quiet because I realize that lots of people are still stuck in the past. Today’s generation is not that different from yesterday’s generation. They are not lazier, dumber or stupidier[sic], and I might even argue that they are smarter. Smarter because they are processing way more information and at a way faster rate than previous generations have. Back in the days you had to walk several miles to the library to get access to books, but today’s technology gives us access to an entire library of books with the flick of our thumbs! This thumb convenience means that the average kid is probably reading more content than his or her father did at that age…the reading medium has simply shifted from the library to the internet.

Sadly, instead of embracing the technological changes in reading we often find ourselves criticizing and condemning it. We blame everything from television to cellphones to Britney Spears for the poor reading habits of our children failing to realize that the so called problem could actually be the solution. For instance what if we removed books from libraries and put them on the evil mobile phones or the dirty internet and then made them easy for our kids to access? Would our kids read? I will bet a book they will and here’s why…Nigeria has changed from what it used to be back then…our population has exploded, but yet our libraries have largely remained the same. And because our books have remained stuck in libraries and expensive book stores our reading culture has suffered. If we are to improve that reading culture we would have to accept 2 things…firstly, our kids want to read just as much as we did. Secondly, for them to read just as much as we did, we would need to move books beyond libraries and place them on to the very same medium we despise…the internet.

Those are the 2 things I had to believe when I began working on a mobile book reading app specially crafted for the Nigerian market. The idea started brewing several months ago when I observed the relative ease at which people could buy and download ring tones on their mobile phones by sending a simple SMS message. Even more intriguing to me was the amount of people accessing the internet via mobile devices in Nigeria. People were able to read scores of articles (aka LindaIkeji and Bellanaija) all from the comfort of their cellphones. So I asked the question, what if instead of downloading music to mobile devices, we could instead download books to mobile devices? And that is when I started fully flirting with the idea. Working with the amazing folks at funmobile we were able to convert my first two books into mobile apps. The next step was to ensure that people could purchase the books via SMS, this took a lot of back and forth’s and tweaks before we could get it right. We tested the product variations amongst friends and family members and even strangers before we were confident that we had a quality product.

On August 13th we did a passive launch to the general public on facebook, twitter and blackberry. And the reception so far has been great. In fact some of the many questions we now get is “how can we get this on other networks outside MTN” and “Does it work for non blackberry phones.” I would even add my own question “what about other books?” and my answer to all those is that we are working on something…something (see figure below) that would work on more networks, more phones and would involve more books. We even hope that people reading this now could even start working on their own mobile book reading apps. We welcome the competition, because we know in a book reading contest we all read win.

If you want to test out the app on your blackberry and you have MTN simply text “Laziness” or “Stupidity” to 33110

So the next time you are faced with the question “Why Do Nigerians No Longer Read?” refrain from framing your answer from the perspective of in my days, because that is the past. The Nigerian youth currently faces a lot of problems such as bad roads, poor economy and over-population that make reading challenging…to adequately answer the question we would need to frame it from their perspective. By doing so we might find simple solutions…we might not be able to fix the roads, re-build the libraries or even print more books…but by using mobile devices and an easy SMS payment system, maybe we could be on to something…just maybe…

Ofili is an award winning mobile app designer motivational speaker, author, success coach and karate kid entrepreneur who blogs about life, success and entrepreneurial excellence. Follow him on twitter , facebook or subscribe to his blog for more success TIPS!” To bring Ofili to your school or organization as a speaker simply go here. He has written two books, How Laziness Saved My Life and the best-selling How Stupidity Saved My Life, to find out how they both saved his life visit ofilispeaks.com

Wishing You Extreme Success,



Words by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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28 comments on “Why Nigerians No Longer Read Books

  1. happyhausabunny on said:

    Laziness n a lot of ppl find readn to b boring n tidious. dese days it takes me 4eva 2 read a book! I used to njoy readn book b4! I av d ibook on my iphone bt I av probably read jst 3 books so far. I saw an ad on BET channel whr u can download audio books! I shld try d@. It’s not jst Nigerians who don’t read anymore, it’s a world wide epidermic.

  2. I remember growing up when we pride on how many boos you can finish in weeks. It was a healthy competition which made us those days smart and coordinated. Today reading a book is a think of shame. You hear things like this” Kanu read any book?” “your mates dey make millions for street and you dey here dey waste your time.” This is seriously affecting our country. When I finished my first book, and was ready to decide on which publishers to go for, a friend advised me, ” Go for foreign publishers because they will take it to those climes who appreciate books. I pray the you people will get to read this lovely piece.
    brandigest latest post is Seven (7) IMPORTANT COMPONENTS of a STRONG PERSONAL BRAND You Need To KnowMy Profile

  3. Dike Chukwumerije on said:

    I like what you’re doing. Keep it up. Especially the new and innovative methods you’re using to bring the book back. Well done. However, I think one of the points many of those people asking those questions are trying to make is that: Technology cannot solve everything; cannot be a substitute for everything; is not always an improvement of everything that came before it; and that, ultimately, there is always something about the past worth continuing into the future. Change and Continuity; the ying and yang of life. Certain things have always been very widely read in Nigeria. Sports news. Political debacles. Entertainment news. Gossip columns. Social trends. The internet has simply amplified this. But I’m not very sure it’s done the same for literary books. And I think there is something legitimate about worrying if the Nigerian youth is assimilating all the benefits of globalization, but none of the foundational values that gave birth to it; copying the tastes of richer countries, but ignoring the underlying work ethics.

  4. Kudos on the app development. Hope its not just for Blackberry phones.

    Parents nowadays bear some part of the blame, my mum got me reading from an early age, and encouraged me to read far and wide. This she did by flooding the house with books. A few months back, I went into a bookstore and saw a mother with three boys who were told to pick any books they wanted, within a certain price range, and that to me is how to combat it.

    Technology does matter though; I do most of my reading on my phone and whatever gadget is at hand. I remember reading books in html on a Sony Ericsson K750i some years back. So this has to be borne in mind and used to tackle the trend.

    I frequently get hit with the statement that reading is boring and takes too much time, I feel its a matter of finding that particular genre that speaks to you, and the rest will follow.
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  5. Okee Jr on said:

    Very thoughtful of you Sir. Ofili. Reading is now a global problem, I think the solution is as you have suggested . However visual aid tends to aid reading culture as you demonstrated in your book. More power to your elbow!!!

    • Thanks OkeeJr…I wanted to address that as well in this article but I held back. I think that many of the books written in Nigeria are too too serious. We need writers to write in a simpler and more fun manner…would definitely go a long way in improving the reading culture.
      Okechukwu Ofili latest post is The Great Big LieMy Profile

  6. Reallaw on said:

    Apps are the ish right now! Thanks for making it happen in Naija & inspiring others behind u 😀 Any special code for Android phones on MTN? It’s a pdf right or mobi file? Holla!

  7. Olawale Adisa on said:

    Ofili is reinventing the wheel , I think a lot of our old folks really need to move from the past and dwell more in the present

  8. Lawrence Akinbaye on said:

    This is not only a problem in Nigeria, kids all over the world don’t read. Your ‘mobile book reading’ project is a welcome development. I salute your courage and effort. All the same, I believe adults should encourage the younger ones to read books.

    • Agreed Lawrence…Adults should definitely encourage their kids to read. WHat I also encourage is that they should adapt their encouragement to what kids are doing. If kids are addicted to ipad…put the books on the ipad.
      Okechukwu Ofili latest post is The Great Big LieMy Profile

  9. i really think u are a great writer. U sure know how to get us all (the readers). i don’t comment often on ur works buh i do enjoy them all!

  10. You really make it appear really easy together with your presentation however I to find this topic to be really one thing which I think I might by no means understand. It seems too complex and extremely large for me. I am having a look forward to your subsequent post, I will try to get the grasp of it!
    dragon city cheat latest post is 1My Profile

  11. kingsley on said:

    Maybe you’ve read this report: 80% of African kids can’t read. Or maybe you’ve
    seen this one: 90% of black children lack reading
    proficiency. Here’s one from another study:
    only 12% of black fourth graders were
    proficient in reading.
    The numbers are astonishing, and maybe some are
    inaccurate. Nevertheless, these numbers continue to
    show all over the country. I have another one for you: black and Hispanic students score lower
    on every known measure of achievement or aptitude than whites and Asians. Well, I’m at full
    attention to all you teachers, parents, and school
    administrators. What seems to be the problem?
    Now, it is possible that the schools are inadequately
    preparing our children; and it’s also possible that the
    tools used to gather this data is off-kilter. The
    teachers are blaming the parents and administrators;
    and the parents are blaming the school system. Who
    is the blame? What are the answers?
    Even with my educational degrees, I can’t give you
    the answer to that one. However, I can tell you what
    works and what does not work. First, allowing your
    child to do whatever he/she wants…that does not
    work. Parents who do not advocate education…that
    can not work. Teachers who give up on children who
    are not intrinsically motivated to read..that will not work. However, the one thing that will work is
    reading. Parents, give your child a book. Teachers,
    make extra time for a struggling child. Child, pick up
    a freakin’ book. And if you’re a child or adolescent
    and you’re reading this…freakin’ is not a real word.
    So, if you have a question about a word, ask
    someone you trust, or ask a language arts teacher. I
    would prefer that you ask the latter.
    Not long ago, it was said that reading is fundamental.
    Today, it seems that you can by without it. The
    problem lies in the fact that without it, we just
    remain dumb. So, teachers, don’t pass a dumb child.
    Parents, don’t raise a dumb child. And children?
    Just don’t be dumb. Back away from the tv or video
    game and pick up a comic book, a magazine, or a
    novel. Because it is true what they say, reading is
    fundamental..and dumb jus’ aint cute.
    Pleas make every kid around you fall in love with reading

  12. The topic ‘Why Nigerians no longer read books’ is a subject which needs to be defended. As a mattar of fact is not only Nigeria this syndrome of lack of reading has affected but Africa generally. Many Africans hate to read, therefore speak bad English. The Whiteman knows this problem, that’s the reason it has been written in many books “If you want to hide something from a Blackman, write it in a book.” It’s sad to read such things as an African writer and author.

    An African can easily give $20 dollars to a woman she wanted to date, than buying a book at the cost of $2 to improve his English. I have written six books available https://www.amazon.com/author/joelsavage-1957 and
    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/joel-savage. Many Africans I know wanted me to give them free copies of my book. This is something I can easily do but I declined. Why? The reason is simply and logical. They will keep those books for the dust to settle on it or the cockroaches to feed. These are some of the reason African books are not selling well internationally.

  13. Barbie on said:

    oh this is like Keita novels.. if the Japanese can do it, why cant we. I am not against spending a lot of time watching tv and indulging in your favorite TV shows, God knows as a child my vocabulary increased from watching loads of Seinfield. I am all for people being smart about their laziness( hahahaa). Question if you ever read this, does the app allow people write their own stories and share with others? You know it could lead to like a literary contest. I know the keita novels are big in Japan and if people are going to be using their smartphone every second, they might as well be doing something smart on it.. hahahah my bad joke.

  14. Ok,I just typed in Laziness and Stupidity at different times to 33110 and I was charged N100 for each message sent…………but I got this ‘Sorry, the SMS instruction you entered is incorrect.’ Instead of the book……what did I do wrong?

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