Petition: An urgent appeal for the sale of books during Lockdown Stage 4

A petition has been launched to appeal for the sale of books during lockdown stage 4.

The petition is hosted on the website of PEN South Africa, a branch of PEN International, a non-profit organisation that promotes literature and freedom of expression.

Read more about the petition below, and click this link to add your name:

An urgent appeal for the sale of books during Lockdown Stage 4

PEN SA is pleased to host the below petition following the open letter submitted to the South African Government about regulations regarding the buying, selling, and reading of books during Stage 4 Lockdown.

We invite all those who would like to support this call – writers, readers, publishers, members and non-members-to sign. Please be safe and keep reading!

27 April 2020

An Open Letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and the South African National Coronavirus Command Council

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

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 both 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, and 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, that 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 practiced at a social distance; it is a pastime that both encourages 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 distills, 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.


Nadia Davids

Mark Gevisser

Ronnie Kasrils

Sisonke Msimang

Njabulo S. Ndebele

Yewande Omotoso

Zukiswa Wanner

Harriet Perlman

Peter Delius

Lynton Francois Burger

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 Buseeto

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

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

Philippa Yaa de Villiers

Dirk de Vos

Fred de Vries

Shaun de Waal

Jessica Denyschen

Isobel Dixon

S. Dlamini

Khaya Dlanga

Ebbe Dommise

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

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Albert Grundlingh

Sharon Grussendorf

Ferial Haffajee

Rosemund Handler

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Shafinaaz Hassim

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Shireen Hassim

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Nozizwe Cynthia Jele

Ashraf Kagee

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Ronnie Kasrils

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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

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AJ Parris Plus the libraries should open

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Featured image by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

Categories Fiction Non-fiction South Africa

Tags Books News PEN South Africa Reading

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