I gather a PDF file of my book is now available on a Kenyan website, so I thought I better make my position on this clear.
Just so there is no confusion: this is a bootleg copy. When I was putting feelers out to the Kenyan media over a possible newspaper serialisation, I entrusted a copy to several individuals in Nairobi on the strict understanding it would go no further. My trust was clearly betrayed. So it’s an illegal pirate version (I can’t vouch for its contents even being same as the book, by the way, it may well be an early version deposited before a final edit was done at Christmas) — and anyone passing it along is also doing something illegal.
I understand why people are doing this. I’m incredibly pleased there’s so much Kenyan interest in the book, and I also quite understand the huge exasperation people feel at not being able to get their hands on the book immediately because booksellers are hesitating to stock it. As PEN says, it should surely be every Kenyan’s right to read what they damn well please, whether they end up agreeing with it or not. This is is just another form of censorship, with worried booksellers doing the government’s job for it. However, if my book keeps circulating in this form in Nairobi, it has damaging implications not just for me but for any author who wants to write about Kenya in future. They will struggle to find a publisher willing to put money behind them, as Kenya will have won a reputation as a country where books get stolen, not sold, and copyright law has no meaning.
So please have a heart and don’t pass it around like this. If you control the website(s) concerned, please take the PDF file down. This “it’s impossible to buy” business is, in fact, exaggerated. The book CAN be easily bought, off http://www.amazon.co.uk. Going down that route doesn’t take that long, it’s perfectly legal and yes, the copies are arriving in people’s PO Boxes without any problem. I have the facebook messages from satisfied customers in Nairobi to prove it. I’m also encouraging acquaintances who travel to Nairobi regularly to go in carrying a couple of copies of the book. I bet most of you have these kind of connections too, given the size of the Kenyan diaspora, and could do likewise.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to read the book on a computer screen. And if people are going to go to the lengths of downloading the PDF onto a memory stick, taking it to a photocopying centre and laboriously having all 339 pages printed out, I would have thought they might just as well order the thing off Amazon and wait for a week.