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 BPN Newsletter Issue No 24, December 1998 



Directory of Nigerian Book Development edited by Chukwuemeka Ike

ISBN 97833473491998 228pp 1998 Nigerian Book Foundation, Awka, and Fourth Dimension Publishing Co., Enugu, Nigeria, $63.00/£35.00 cased, $45/£25 pb. Distributed by African Books Collective Ltd., details p. 19.

Review by Hans Zell
Hans M Zell is a publishing consultant specialising in scholarly publishing, journals publishing management and reference book publishing, 11 Richmond Road, PO Box 56, Oxford, OX1 2SJ, England. Tel +44 1865 511428, fax +44 1865 311534, e-mail:

This is a remarkable and pioneering publication and is probably the first reference work published anywhere in Africa which provides a wide range of information about the entire book community in a single country, and in a single source. Published jointly by the Nigerian Book Foundation (NBF) and Fourth Dimension Publishing Company, the project forms part of the NBF's mission to establish a comprehensive database on all aspects of book development in Nigeria. The introduction in the volume clearly sets out the scope and arrangement of the directory, and provides the background to the data-gathering process.

Much of the information was collected through systematic questionnaire mailings. When responses were not forthcoming, various chasers were sent and some personally delivered; the Foundation also enlisted the help of various publishers with regional offices in various parts of the country. Inevitably, as with any data-gathering process relying primarily on questionnaires (which are reproduced in the book's appendices), and as this reviewer knows from his own experience, it can be very frustrating when recipients don't respond, even if entries are completely free of charge, and despite the fact that listings in the directory help to publicise the activities of each organisation and make them more widely known. One reason for the low return from certain sectors of the Nigerian book world, the editor explains in this introduction, was `fear of income tax authority', namely that appearance in the Directory could expose the existence of a taxable organisation to the tax authorities! Perhaps this should not have come altogether as a surprise, as the questionnaire also requested details of annual turnover figures (in addition to share capital, subscribed shares, etc.), and which might explain why some publishers or printers were reluctant to be included. In the event, one sector of the book industry - those involved in the production, importation and distribution of paper and other materials for book manufacture - was not included in this initial edition as the response rate was very poor.

Having said this, the Directory brings together a massive amount of information, which is grouped into five distinct parts, each preceded by a short introductory essay. Part One is a directory of published Nigerian authors, a total of 749 entries covering creative writers as well as academic authors. Entries include full name and address, telephone number, date of birth, details of published books, awards and honours received, and other information. Part Two is a directory of book publishing houses, 74 entries giving a wide array of specifics on each publisher, e.g. date founded, number of books in print, number of new titles published annually, types of books published and primary markets, in addition to financial information, number of employees, name of chief executive, and full name and address, telephone/fax numbers. Part Three is a directory of book printing presses, listing 66 companies and providing similar information as for publishers, but also including more printing-specific information such as typesetting and origination services offered, printing and binding equipment available, and more. Part Four covers the retail trade and bookshops/distribution organisations (70 entries), again with very full information on each organisation, including nature of business, name of chief executive, type of sales outlets and principal promotion channels, annual turnover figures (where disclosed), and specialised services offered. Part Five is a directory of libraries throughout Nigeria, grouped by states, but unlike Parts 1-4 listings are confined to just name and address and an indication of the type of library.

There are four separate `name indexes': of published authors, publishing houses, book printing presses, and bookshops and book distribution organisations. However, the indexes are the weak point in this otherwise excellent resource. They really serve no purpose at all, as they are merely alphabetical indexes to authors, publishers, printers, etc. which already appear in precisely the same alphabetical order in the main listings. It would have been much better to have one alphabetical index integrating all entries in the Directory into a single index.

However, this is a relatively minor flaw in what otherwise is a highly commendable publication. The book is handsomely produced and casebound, and typography and layout of information are generally attractive and user friendly.

As this is a reference tool both for the book trade and for authors, the NBF might wish to consider inclusion of some extra details under publisher entries in future editions, and as they relate to manuscript submissions. For example, in what areas and levels are manuscript submissions welcomed (if unsolicited approaches are indeed welcomed)? Who is the initial author contact? What sort of manuscript length is suggested? What are the editorial requirements? How should manuscripts be submitted (e.g. acceptable as conventional hard copy or only on disk)? What kind of author assistance is offered? And what are the standard terms of author remuneration (royalties, advances, frequency of payment, etc.)?

The Nigerian Book Foundation is to be congratulated for publishing such a valuable resource. It ought to be purchased by all African studies libraries; and for libraries, organisations, NGOs or donor agencies anywhere with an interest in publishing, book development and authorship in Africa it is an indispensable reference. [end] [BPN, No 24, 1998, p 17.]

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