Africa in the study by Octavio Kulesz on “Digital publishing in developing countries” (2011)

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
future trends:
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.

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African libraries in “Library World Records” by Godfrey Oswald

For the ones who love rankings and are interested in libraries and Africa I want to recommend Godfrey Oswald’s book Library World Records. Here are some quotes to attract your interest…

Notable people who have worked in libraries or as librarians (p.121):

“Christopher Okigbo, the Nigerian poet, was acting librarian at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, where he helped to found the African Authors Association. He was killed while fighting as a soldier during the Biafran war.”

Unusual things that happened at libraries (p.111):

“The National Institute of Studies and Research Library in the capital of Guinea-Bissau was turned into a military garrison by soldiers in 1998. But first they had to destroy several thousand books to make way for military equipment and sleeping quarters.”

Libraries that have suffered devastating fires or natural disasters (pp.107):

“Fourah Bay College Library in Free Town, Sierra Leone, […] was obliterated during the civil war of the early 1990s. It has since been rebuilt.”

And there is a list on the oldest university libraries in Africa (p. 83) – third is Monrovia University Library, Liberia, 1851. And the oldest public library in Africa (p.34.) was Luanda Municipal Library in Angola, founded in 1873 by the Portuguese colonial government. The two oldest national libraries in Africa “are the National Library of South Africa, Cape Town branch, founded 1818, and the National Library of Tunisia, Tunis, founded 1845.” (p.13).

And finally, what do you think: Which is the oldest existing bookstore in Africa (p.195)? Its Juta Bookshop, Cape Town, South Africa, founded in 1923.

Source: Godfrey Oswald: Library World Records, 2nd ed., Jefferson, NC, 2009.

New German book series – young writers from Africa

The German “Wunderhorn Verlag” publishes a new series of contemporary African literature in German. It is a courageous endeavour to translate young writers from Africa.

The first titles are

  • Lebogang Mashile: Töchter von morgen – Gedichte (2010) [In a Ribbon of Rhythm, 2005]
  • K. Sello Duiker: Die stille Gewalt der Träume  (2010) [The Quiet Violence of Dreams«, 2002]

There will be published three books a year, the next one of Shimmer Chinodya…

more information