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Q&A with Nal’ibali Publisher Benoit Knox

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The Times

Metz and Bop and the Big Library TheftWhat made you go into publishing?

I studied for a publishing degree at the University of Pretoria. It was at a time when educational publishers were trying to recover from the post-apartheid turmoil, and large traditional publishers were struggling to make their old-fashioned models relevant to a new South African audience.

What made you see things differently?

There was a misconception out there that black people don’t read. In our final year we worked on a project towards our degrees. I went into townships to do research. I found that access to books in township schools was limited to libraries and classrooms. I also saw how well children responded to books. I decided to create a book I believed could sell.

How did you do this?

My team and I got writers to contribute stories and then had the book illustrated and printed. We then went to schools to talk about the book, Metz and Bop and the Big Library Theft, and advised them we’d be back in two weeks to sell copies at R20 each. We sold 5000 books that way.

You still run this project. Is it difficult?

The project has not been without its problems. We have had to concentrate on other aspects of our business, such as Supernova and helping authors to self-publish. It is not forgotten, however, and I still believe that, if children buy books, they are guaranteed to read them.

Describe Supernova.

It is an educational magazine for children between the ages of nine and 14. It is published every second month and aims to make children aware of issues that affect them, their community and environment. We want to equip them with the tools and inspiration to become active and responsible world citizens.

Book details

  • Metz and Bop and the Big Library Theft by Richard Street, Marilyn Perry, Jane van Velsen;, Carolyn Visser, Elma van den Berg, Karen Jeynes, Ofentse Ribane, Nerine Dorman, Francois Verster, Lydia Gittens, illustrated by Gerhard Cruywagen, Rhys Ap Gwyn
    EAN: 9780981433509
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