Africa has long been referred to as the dark continent, which means there is ample scope for the light to shine; and that is exactly what is happening in that part of the world. Focusing on just one measure of development, internet usage in Africa has hit the fast lane. Even this can be termed an understatement given the astounding 3,606 percent growth rate that internet usage has reached in the continent achieved since the beginning of the new millennium. Of course this has led to a ripple effect as this has spurred the demand for internet based service, with digital publishing being just one of them.
“The proliferation of smartphones across Africa, combined with the inevitable burst into e-commerce, means that we would be foolish to ignore what is about to happen with publishing in Africa,” said Jeremy Weate, associated with Abuja-based Cassava Republic, a Nigeria based e-publishing firm that publishes fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. The obvious reference here has been to the more than 160 million Africans that connect to the internet, with it being smartphones that has emerged as the most preferred device to get online.
“Moving to e-books addresses some of our most significant challenges with print books,” Weate further added.
“In Nigeria, it is a tough ask to find a printer that can offer reliable services, a wide range of paper and guaranteed product quality.
“We don’t have to worry about printing, warehousing, distribution or engaging in fruitless marathons across the continent for payments that will never come,” said Weate.
A higher access to internet is also seen by publishers as a means of drawing the Africans to read more books, a trend that has been lacking sorely among the masses. Such an endeavor is getting further impetus with the efforts of Worldreader, a non profit organization that has been distributing e-readers among school children in the continent with the aim to dram them to read ebooks. Statistics depicting Worldreader’s efforts too are commendable, having delivered more than 70,000 ebooks among 13,000 children in nine countries in the African continent.
Meanwhile, Weate also stressed on promoting reading ebooks via smartphones given the wide reach these have already achieved.
“Many young Africans are already comfortable reading on mobile devices and we think this trend will continue as the price of smartphones gets cheaper,” said Mr Weate.
With this being the trend, it could just be a matter of time before major ebook publishers and device manufacturers such as Amazon, B&N, Kobo and such make a beeline for the African market.