The buying, selling and reading of books is an essential service

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AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA

An open letter from 328 South African published authors, academics, and readers, asking that all books be available for trade at Level 4 of Lockdown. The letter has been submitted to the National Coronavirus Command Council through the correct portal, and letters will be written, individually, to the key ministers on Tuesday, 28 April 2020.

As published South African authors, and readers and writers, we are proud of and grateful for the sober, compassionate, and science-based leadership our government has shown during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are mindful of the difficult choices you have to make, every day, in an attempt to save our lives and our livelihoods, and we have noted your call for public response to the proposed regulations governing the easing of the lockdown. It is in this spirit that we submit our request: that all books, not just “educational” ones, be available for trade, at Level 4 of the lockdown.

The book industry was vulnerable even before the pandemic. We as a country are at great risk of losing not only our booksellers but our publishers too. We are concerned about the jobs that will be lost, as well as the loss of vital cultural and intellectual space. This space will not be easily regained once the Covid-19 crisis is over.

From May 1, restaurants will be able to deliver cooked food. We understand the value of this, to the economy, the service industry, and consumers alike. We would like to urge that brain-food be delivered, too, as an essential service: not just so that writers can keep writing and publishers can keep publishing and booksellers can keep selling, but so that readers can keep reading, new ideas can keep sprouting, and that the life of the mind of our country can keep growing. Reading is one of the few art-forms that can be practised at a social distance; it is a pastime that both encourage safe behaviour in the present and is an investment in our individual and collective future. University students, in particular, need uninterrupted access to books to prepare them for a meaningful contribution to the knowledge economy.

We are not being simply nostalgic when we say that there is nothing like a physical book: it distils, holds, and transmits knowledge like no other “device”. From the young child discovering the world through her first storybook to a grandmother, now alone during the lockdown, with only her books to comfort her, it is the foundation of our literate society. If we are going to ensure that our country continues to develop and strengthen a reading culture, we need to nurture and protect writers, publishers, booksellers and readers.

We have noted the new ways technology is being adopted because of the pandemic, and we understand that, in the future, there might be more trade-in e-books and less in physical books. Still, publishers will be necessary to make those e-books, and so we don’t want to lose them. And, of course, the pandemic has put into sharp relief the digital divide. For a long time to come, e-books will not be an option for most South Africans, and for this reason, the paper publishing industry must stay alive.

Of course, there are books in circulation already, and it could be argued that it is not essential for more to be bought and sold right now. We would disagree. To allow the book industry to trade right now is to give it a lifeline. Without that lifeline, we could well lose it. Forever.

In South Africa, purchasing a book is often a luxury, but many in the book community work to promote national literacy, to ensure that books are widely available for loan and purchase, and to promote the understanding that books are a necessity rather than a privilege. We would like to see emerge, out of this crisis, an opportunity for developing better book delivery at a community level, so that the key work already done to build literacy in South Africa will not be lost.

We do not ask that bookshops be open physically for business just yet. Rather, we ask for a simple addition to the current Level 4 regulations: that all books be available for purchase online or over the phone and for delivery, and that all booksellers, big and small, be allowed to trade. All books are educational.

Signed:

Barbara Adair
Lize Albertyn-du Toit
Kate Alexander
Lucy Alexander
Jonathan Ancer
Gavin Andersson
Peter Anderson
Sally Andrew
Brett Archibald
Neil Armitage
Zaheera Jina Asvat
Adriaan Basson
Charlotte Bauer
Lesley Berry
Mark Berry
Lauren Beukes
Cynthia Bevan
Zelda Bezuidenhout
Hlumelo Biko
Albert Blake
Carole Bloch
Marn Bodenstein
Jill Bradbury
Kerneels Breytenbach
Nechama Brodie
Daniel Browde
Edyth Bulbring
Mary Burton
Ndukenhle Buthelezi
Penny Busetto
Mike Cadman
Jonathan Cane
Andy Capostagno
Trevor Carnaby
John Cartwright
Alma-Nalisha Cele
Mukesh Chander
Ivor Chipkin
Yvette Christianse
Sean Christie
Jakkie Cilliers
Francois Cleophas
Stephen Clingman
Jacklyn Cock
JM Coetzee
David Cooper
Michael Cope
Sharon Cort
Ben Cousins
Jeremy Cronin
Karin Cronje
Jenny Crwys-Williams
Lindelwa Dalamba
Jude Daly
Achmat Dangor
Fezile Dantile
Carol Ann Davids
Nadia Davids
Rebecca Davis
Henrietta Dax
Jean-Pierre de Kock
Ingrid de Kok
Phillippa Yaa de Villiers
Dirk de Vos
Fred de Vries
Shaun de Waal
Jessica Denyschen
Isobel Dixon
S Dlamini
Khaya Dlanga
Ebbe Dommisse
Dorothy Driver
Andrew Duminy
Hani du Toit
Nomathemba Dzinotyiwei
Chike Frankie Edozien
Hagen Engler
George Ellis
Zimitri Erasmus
Natasha Erlank
Martha Evans
Judith February
Andrew Feinstein
Melinda Ferguson
Brian Fredericks
Sibongile Fisher
Fiona Forde
Moira Forjaz
Roddy Fox
Damon Galgut
Dawn Garisch
Philippa Garson
Mark Gevisser
Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
Jeremy Gordin
Tracy Going
Pregs Govender
Pumla Dineo Gqola
Rachelle Greeff
Pippa Green
Jane Griffiths
Albert Grundlingh
Sharon Grussendorf
Ferial Haffajee
Rosemund Handler
Ray Hartley
Shafinaaz Hassim
Joanne Hichens
Nicky Falkof
Anton Harber
Shireen Hassim
Stefanie Hefer
James Hendry
Michiel Heyns
Mark Heywood
Craig Higginson
Alan Hirsch
David Holt-Biddle
Mehita Iqani
Ron Irwin
Zubeida Jaffer
Ashraf Jamal
Ena Jansen
Nozizwe Cynthia Jele
Ashraf Kagee
Philippa Kabali-Kagwa
Aryan Kaganof
Ronnie Kasrils
Cathy Kelly
Billy Keniston
Andrew Kenny
William Kentridge
Rashida Khan
Busisiwe Precious Khumalo
Siya Khumalo
Sarah-Jayne King
Bongani Kona
Kelly-Eve Koopman
Lindie Koorts
Rustum Kozain
Sue Kramer
Helena Kriel
Antjie Krog
Cynthia Kros
Christa Kuljian
Terry Kurgan
Ismail Lagardien
Mandla Langa
Bronwyn Law Viljoen
Pertunia Lehoka
Tony Leon
Nombulelo Leqheku
Sekajane Leqheku
Lorraine le Roux
Michelle le Roux
Lorna Levy
Bridget Lotz
Barbara Ludman
Lindiwe Mabuza
Wendy Maartens
Deon Maas
Joanne Macgregor
Hugh Macmillan
Tshepo Madlingozi
Bongani Madondo
Kathu Maestro
Nelly Page Magwaza
Siphiwo Mahala
Sello Mahapeletsa
Macdonald Mailula
Joshua Maluleke
Desiree-Anne Martin
Julia Martin
Malose Erick Makgotho
Angela Makholwa
Justice Malala
Gerhard Mare
Lebo Mashile
Sizwile Masukuma-Sibindi
Zethu Matebeni
Nixon Mateulah
Makanaka Mavengere
John Maytham
Moeletsi Mbeki
Liz McGregor
Eusebius McKaiser
Fiona Melrose
Rajend Mesthrie
Thando Mgqolozana
Gcina Mhlophe
Ronald Miller
Greg Mills
Makodi Moepya
Helen Moffett
Thabiso Mofokeng
Tlaleng Mofokeng
Fikile Moiloa
Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane
Simphiwe Molaba
Natalia Molebatsi
Saul Kgomotso Molobi
Rudolf Isaac Monyela
Jean Moore
Michael Morris
Floss Morrison
Palesa Morudu
Thabo Mosole
Glenn Moss
Sisonke Msimang
Lungile Mtetwa
Gregory Mthembu-Salter
Isiphile Mthumezi
Nick Mulgrew
Pieter-Louis Myburgh
Eric Naki
Bill Nasson
Nicoli Nattrass
Charl-Pierre Naude
Njabulo S Ndebele
Nothando Ndebele
Senzeni Ndebele
Malika Ndlovu
Maureen Ndlovu
Mcebisi Ndletyana
Sean Newman
Susan Newton-King
Chwayatiya Ngamlana
Tembeka Ngcukaitobi
Monde Nkasawe
Candice Noakes-Dobson
Patrick Noonan
Mphuthumi Ntabeni
Brian Vela Ntombela
Sue Nyathi
Ike Obedike
Paul O’Sullivan
Andre Odendaal
Bernard Odendaal
Pieter Odendaal
Crispian Olver
Margie Orford
Yewande Omotoso
Harry Owen
Elize Parker
Jacques Pauw
Harriet Perlman
Jackie Phamotse
Howard Phillips
Jolyn Phillips
Phumlani Pikoli
Don Pinnock
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Karin Schimke
Patricia Schonstein
Lauren Segal
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Jeremy Seekings
Pumza Shabangu
Terry Shakinovsky
Milton Shain
John Sharp
Sandra Shell
Ntombi Sibande-Letlojane
Kate Sidley
Stephen Sidley
Wandile Sihlobo
Sizwile Masukuma-Sibindi
Gus Silber
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Hedley Twidle
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Edited By: Bradley Brizzy


-Daily Mav