Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Freedom of the Press and the Kindle

Bear with me as I try to connect these two subjects. I've been wanting to talk about my experience with the Kindle while I was in Africa and news of Okey Ndibe's arrest is the prompt.

My thinking is rarely linear.

I read today that Nigerian writer Okey Ndibe was arrested at an airport in Lagos and questioned for several hours. His passports--U.S. and Nigerian--were seized. He has been a person of interest to the Nigerian government since he spoke out about elections there.

I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Ndibe in Kenya, at the Kwaani Literary Festival. He is, quite simply, one of the most charming men on the planet. I developed quite a crush. He's also a great writer.

The subtext throughout the Kwaani Festival was the devastating impact a lack of free press/free speech has had on Africa's writers. Many of the writers who spoke there are in exile. Mr. Ndibe lives in the U.S.

Here's the pivot: In Kenya, it's hard to get your hands on a book called It's Our Turn to Eat by Michela Wrong. It's a lively, readable book about John Githongo, who blew the whistle on corruption in the Kibaki administration. In a final chapter of the current edition, Ms. Wrong writes about how copies of her book are being passed around as pdf files. "This greedy appropriation of more than three years' work dismays me, but perhaps there is something poetically fitting about a story of illicitly recorded confidences and website leaks being filched, in its turn, via the internet."

I downloaded it, while I was in Nairobi, onto my Kindle. I couldn't have easily obtained the book any other way. And I paid for it.

So, I wonder, what role might e-readers play in getting around government censorship?


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