The Street Bookstores of Nairobi [In Pictures]

by Leah Kanda

They are popularly christened Inama Bookstores (Inama, Swahili for bend because of how one bends when making a selection of books from the concrete pavements where the books are usually displayed) These recurring points that sell second-hand (mitumba) books are found in along almost every corner of the street in the CBD. They are difficult to miss even to a newcomer in the city. Their existence is necessitated by the constant need to satiate the demands of the Nairobian reader who cannot afford to buy new books from the traditional bookshops. They have revolutionised the way the Kenyan reader can now access and read books.

For as little as Kshs. 100 (1 USD) one can get up to five books on these streets. With better luck, you are able to find a large selection of books from your favourite authors. Kenyan writer Mehul Gohil chronicles his adventurous hunt for books around the streets of Nairobi.

A book vendor along Moi Avenue, Nairobi.
Books by African writers are a rare occurrence, but once in a while you can chance upon a copy. In this case, a copy of Teju Cole’s Open City on display and going for Kshs. 100 (1 USD)
The streets of Nairobi. On a good day. A great selection of books from bestselling authors.
The streets of Nairobi. On a good day. A great selection of books from bestselling authors.
Some of the books being sold at Kshs. 50. Young Adult and popular fiction books can easily be found here.
Some of the books being sold at Kshs. 50. Young Adult and popular fiction books can easily be found here.
A closed Inama Bookstore. It is not a rare occurrence to find the books left outside. The result, the books become soggy in the Nairobi rain. The vendors say storage for the books is an issue. No, people do not steal the books.
A closed Inama Bookstore. It is not a rare occurrence to find the books left outside. The result, the books become soggy in the Nairobi rain. The vendors say storage for the books is an issue. No, people do not steal the books.
Haggling the price of a book on the streets. A good bargain ensures you have more books for even far less. Bargaining is the way of the typical Nairobian.
Haggling the price of a book on the streets. A good bargain ensures you have more books for even far less. Bargaining is the way of the typical Nairobian.
Perusing a book before making a purchase. Rarely do I buy a book that doesn't grip at the first line of paragraph.
Perusing a book before making a purchase. Rarely do I buy a book that doesn’t grip at the first line or paragraph.
A close delicate shot of a book waiting to be picked up by a reader.
A close delicate shot of a book waiting to be picked up by a reader.
The book vendor watches as people pass by in the hope that one of them stops to buy the books.
The book vendor watches as people pass by in the hope that one of them stops to buy the books.
Looking through the books. The price tag boldly displayed to attract the buyers.
Looking through the books. The price tag boldly displayed to attract the buyers.
The books, mostly by American and British writers, are displayed without much order and the buyers are free to make their selection.
The books, mostly by American and British writers, are displayed without much order and the buyers are free to make their selection.
Books! More books! Definitely more books!
Books! More books! Definitely more books!
Yes, these too can be found on the streets. The price for these range between Kshs. 200 to Kshs. 500.
Yes, these too can be found on the streets. The price for these range between Kshs. 200 to Kshs. 500.
Thumbing through. Viewing before buying is highly advised.

All images by Leah Kanda and Njuguna Gichia.

(c) Enkare Review, 2016

 

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