Africa in the study by Octavio Kulesz on “Digital publishing in developing countries” (2011)
October 13, 2011 1 Comment
At 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair in a discussion “Digital publishing in the South” organized by the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, Fundación El Libro and the Frankfurt Book Fair a new study for the International Alliance of Independent Publishers by Octavio Kulesz was presented (13.10.2011, 5.1 A 962, Forum Dialog). The research was done in October 2010, the study was publishedin February 2011.
Here is my personal summary of pp. 40-56 covering sub-Saharan Africa:
- Kulesz is very critical on projects like Worldreader or One Laptop Per Child because they do not take into account the particular conditions of the local context. Among others they do not offer content in local languages and a business model designed for local creators is missing (pp.43-45).
- The POD option is discussed with two examples of South Africa: Paperight (Electric Book Works) is a platform that promises to transform any computer with a printer and internet connection – e.g. in the local photocopying centre – into an on-demand store. Another independent South African publisher, Jacana Media, thinks about the Espresso Book Machine, to allow them to reduce distribution costs and replace the prevailing business model (p. 46).
In the Book Fair discussion Bridget Impey from Jacana was present and elaborated on this idea – she also reported of the big companies of the North trying to get the African content, but she stresses that the delay in digital publishing in Africa has the advantage of having the possibility to think very carefully about how and to whom the content should be given.
- The study introduces the leading online stores in Afric like Kalahari or Exclus1ve Books (p.47).
- AJOL and Human Sciences Research Council Press (HSRC) are presented as noteworthy cases under the headline “digital repositories” (p.48,49).
- Finally, another actor “that is perhaps the real protagonist of future electronic publishing in Africa: the mobile phone” is tackled (together with M-Pesa). The study then describes activities to use the existing cellular network to distribute works of fiction. (p.49-52).
- Let us see if print on demand will represent a key step forward in the future (p. 53).
- One of the mentioned problems is the conversion of backlists to digital format, which meens a hugh investment (p.54).
- Concerning expensive software – like Adobes InDesign – open source solutions might offer a way, however: “It must be stated that only two of the publishers interviewed from sub-Saharan Africa declared themselves familiar with open source solutions.” (p. 55)
The result of the study in short:
“Based on the cases studied we can outline a number of
1. The mobile phone network will continue to be fertile terrain for new
experiments in book publishing or promotion, given that Internet
penetration will certainly take many years to reach the levels of other
regions; in the field of cell phones we will probably witness the exploration
of business models that do not even exist in the US or Europe.
2. Print on demand will have a greater presence.
3. The training of traditional publishers will be a decisive factor that
might accelerate change. The key will lie in the ability of African professionals
to exploit the potential of digital technology without falling
into formulas for “implanting” technologies inconsistent with the local
reality which – like a deus ex machina –, not only do not help but
may be a considerable waste of time and resources.” (p.56)
Another recommendation on the subject is the blog post “Les téléphones mobiles et l’édition au Burkina Faso – Entretien avec Jean-Claude Naba Par Octavio Kulesz” , 04 October 2011.