With the advent of the digital age, It is not surprising that some may have, in their minds, confined physical bookstores to the list of endangered species.
However, when book lovers talk of a ‘real bookstore’ that has shelves packed full with a spectrum of reads, and the smell of crispy pages of fiction to non-fiction volumes, the spasms of joy and fulfillment are always very palpable.
Even with more online platforms selling books, Batswana still appreciate the conventional, timeless air of a book store, emphasises Sebilo Book Services co-owner, Lesedi Seitei.
Located in Oodi village, the bookstore upholds and drives the mantra ‘empowerment through book’. “We aim to locate books and other reading material at the center of the drive from a resource based society to a knowledge based one,” said Seitei. With eight years in the distribution business, the book service has also made an impactful contribution in raising awareness about the power of literature.
Behind the inspiration of the name is a story of ‘being proud of who we are’: “Sebilo means black. It is inspired by the imagery of the beauty of the colour, originality and uniqueness. The company intended to empower aspiring citizens for a place in the globalizing world.” However, that does not mean Sebilo has moved behind the curve of innovation: “As a virtual bookshop, we aim to reduce the distance travelled by our clients to source books. We innovate our distribution process to a point where distance is not a factor in acquiring reading and learning material. We aim to provide a great variety across the landscape so that lack of access to relevant material for whatever needs becomes a thing of the past,” explained Seitei.
Offering resource learning institutions with any material they need, as well as desks, stationary, shelving, sport equipment, science equipment, the book service also has an ‘Adopt a school initiative’ which so far has yielded over 25 libraries in primary schools and benefited over 10, 000 pupils, something they describe as a highlight. “The partnership that we have developed with some private sector companies has equally assisted, first of all in availing funds for the projects,” added Seitei.
Taking note of local writers, Sebilo is currently selling numerous books by Batswana: “Though we are not publishing at the moment, we have reached out to authors through our book review on Botswana Television’s Breakfast Show. Authors have a unique opportunity to use a 7 minute influential moment to talk about their book. The programme provides an outlet for local talent to showcase their literary talent on BTV every Wednesday at 7.10am. This is an avenue through which they can communicate with the market, their peers and access critical feedback for growth. It’s an avenue that will hopefully endear them towards potential publishers.”
When speaking of their challenges, diminishing budgets among clients, wide market range and resources are just some of the hurdles that Sebilo has to deal with, said Seitei, adding that they try by all means to not let the little bumps to damper their pursuits.
“There has to be a deliberate appreciation of reading as core to learning and development. The extent to which students perform in each subject has a direct relationship with their attitude towards reading. In other words, students who have a good disposition towards reading will tend to excel, and the converse is also true,” Seitei enthused.
“A student in science with a poor reading disposition will struggle with the basic understanding of the problem, hence spend less time in finding a solution and more time on basic language. There has to be a concerted effort in exposure to reading material, either in the classroom or in the library. The material has to be varied and supportive of the general curriculum. Access has to be improved by inculcating leisure reading into the curriculum. Various incentives could also be put in place such as book prizes for competitions,” said Seitei, noting how the reading culture in Botswana should improve.
“We hope to be the number one book distributor in the country,” she shared, adding that book lovers can view some of their book collection on the website http://sebilobooks.co.bw as well as facebook page, Sebilo Book Service.”
The company delivers to Gaborone and the hinterland free of charge while buyers from other areas would incur a freight fee.