BY Amaka Abayomi
Over the years, several researches have proved that reading is one of the best hobbies a person can have. But it’s saddening to say that majority of Nigerians, especially the adult population, hardly read.
In fact, the saying that ‘if you want to hide anything from a Nigerian, write it in a book’ is very true as the average Nigerian has lost faith in their ability to read.
Proven benefits of reading include it is an active mental process that makes you use your brain. It improves your vocabulary, gives you a glimpse into other cultures and places of the world and improves concentration and focus.
Reading builds self-esteem, improves memory, discipline and creativity. Above all, you will always have something to talk about and never be bored.
One woman who is determined to get Nigerians, especially the younger generation, reading again, a lawyer, Jane Maduegbuna, Managing Director, Hardcover Books and Library Services Limited, who gave up her wig and gown to set up a library that would re-introduce Nigerians to the fabulous world of books.
According to Jane, who improved her reading skills during her 10 years of being a stay-at-home mum, said she cultivated the habit because she didn’t want to be found wanting intellectually when with her peers.
“My father has these huge shelves of books and I grew up reading all sorts of books. I studied law at Edo State University and practiced for a while before my husband and I decided that I stopped so as to raise the kids. During the ten years I raised the kids, I read more books than I thought I could ever read because apart from loving to read, I didn’t want to be lagging behind intellectually when with my peers.
“After 10 years, I thought of what to do to and thought books would be it but my husband was skeptical about owning a bookshop because we had a lot of friends that run bookshops. But when I explained to him that it would be libraries set up in local governments and when we did the business plan and proposal, it was more than we could afford.
“We decided to start with a pilot scheme and grow from there. We took the plan to our pastor and when I told him it would cost us about N39m to actualize our library plans, he asked for a break-down, saying it is better for us to start small and grow than to start big and fizzle out. He asked us to fine tune it and the cost came down to N7m.
Right there in his office, he called a bank manager and told him he was sending his children so he should help us and we got the money. That is how we started Hardcover Books and Library Services Limited.”
Speaking on the acceptance of her library services, Jane says despite having over 40 individuals and 7 corporate organisations on her clients list, Hardcover is yet to rest on its oars as Nigerians don’t want to read.
“That Nigerians don’t read is very much true and if you want to hide something from Nigerians, just write it in a book. It has not been easy, but I always tell myself that I must break through somehow and that is coming to pass.
“The initial idea was for people to come to the library and read but that has not been possible due to space constraints. To make people become more interested in reading, we categorized our services into classic, premium and executive.
Classic readers pay N10,000 annual subscription fee, they come to pick up and drop off the books and are entitled to keep the books for 3 weeks.
“The premium readers pay N20,000 subscription fees, we drop off and pick up the books and they are entitled to keep the books for one month. The executive readers are entitled to 4 books which they can keep for 2 months, they pay N40,000 subscription fees and we deliver and pick up the books.
“For corporate organizations, we have slots which have 60 books which they are entitled to keep for 4 months and we drop off and pick up. The interesting thing here is that they tell us the specific books they want and we charge sign on fees.
“But despite all these, getting Nigerians to read is an uphill task and it is amazing how we want to grow as individuals and a nation yet we don’t want to read. When you quote something to someone, the response you’ll get is ‘who said that’ and when you tell them, they say ‘ok’. You’ll expect they’ll ask which book, but they don’t.
“Our goal is to make Hardcover an answer to knowledge management because we are more like opportunistic entrepreneurs. Like when the banks were having problems, the first thing they had to cut off was training and we provided an alternative by supplying them with relevant financial books as the people that would train them are more likely to read those same books.”
Determined to groom a new generation of readers, Hardcover is partnering with some schools to encourage children cultivate reading culture.
Also a lot of adults demand for children’s books because the adult Nigerians have lost faith in their ability to read but are willing to invest in their children. This made us to focus more on children, young adults and African books.”