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There was movement on other fronts. HarperCollins reported that sales of It's Our Turn to Eat were booming in bookshops in South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. Kenyan travellers were hoovering up extra copies and taking them into the country in their luggage. One banker friend proudly told me he had bought ten copies transiting through Johannesburg airport, and would be collecting another ten on his next trip.

Nearly a month after broaching the idea, Harper Collins's e-book was ready. Thanks to my weeks of email exchanges, I now knew most of the Kenyan websites, and was touched by the speed with which they agreed to post the necessary link. Several offending websites, including Wikileaks, agreed to remove the PDF.

The booksellers' boycott had at least generated a flurry of international media coverage highlighting my strange predicament. A British entrepreneur with a rebel streak offered me £10,000 to get copies to Kenyan schools, universities, libraries and students' groups. "I relish the prospect of putting two fingers up to Mr Kibaki." A fantastically generous offer, but who was going to collect the relevant addresses, organise shipping, apply for a Kenyan import licence and warehouse the books? I was out of my league.

Then, miraculously, a deus ex machina emerged in the form of Galeeb Kachra, a dynamic young American working for the Office of Transition Initiatives. OTI, he explained in a call from Nairobi, was a branch of the USAID development agency specialising in rapid initiatives promoting change in countries moving from authoritarianism to democracy. Getting copies of my book to ordinary Kenyans was exactly the kind of project OTI relished. He was already hard at work, pulling together a multi-pronged distribution operation to bypass a gagged retail industry.

By the time you read this, that project will be under way. Africa's clergy has a proud tradition of taking on repressive government and Kenya is no exception. The National Council of Churches of Kenya and the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission plan to debate my book alongside passages from the Bible. Church groups across the country will draw parallels between episodes of It's Our Turn to Eat and Noah's rejection of earthly corruption, Nehemiah's refusal to accept defeat and Jesus's sermons about egalitarianism and brotherhood.

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July 17th, 2009
9:07 PM
Can only agree to the previous commenter. You have gone viral, as your friend put it, and thats for example how I heard about it. I read it and bought it when it came on Amazon. And I think thats how it goes for most people that have the money for books. We all love real paper. As you say there are "few less enticing prospects than reading an entire book on a flickering screen." Masses reading your book on a screen honors your work, and the moment it was printed most of those that could afford to buy it, did buy it. Saying there will be less books like this, when you are printing more than with any other book so far, is just the wrong perspective.

July 17th, 2009
1:07 PM
>But I can only guess how many copies I would >have sold had it not been for the double whammy >of boycott and piracy. Or how many less copies would have been bought, if the availability of the book across the globe didn't raise it a bit on a scale from obscurity to popularity...

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